Culture, Media and Sport Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 729

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee

on Tuesday 29 October 2013

Members present:

Mr John Whittingdale (Chair)

Mr Ben Bradshaw

Tracey Crouch

Philip Davies

Paul Farrelly

Mr John Leech

Steve Rotheram

Jim Sheridan

Mr Gerry Sutcliffe


Examination of Witness

Witness: Stella Creasy MP gave evidence.

Q61 Chair: Let us get straight in. This is the second session of the Committee’s inquiry into online safety. We have three sessions this morning, and I would like to welcome for our first session Stella Creasy, the Member of Parliament for Walthamstow, Shadow Minister for Business. Stella, once you have your breath back, perhaps you would just like to begin by telling us your experience.

Stella Creasy: Sure. Can I start by thanking the Committee for inviting me to address you this morning? I come very much in a private capacity, as somebody who has experienced both the positive and the negative elements of online engagement.

I presume the Committee is familiar with what happened over the summer. A brief précis is this: I got involved in a campaign to keep female representation on bank notes-not a particularly big issue, but one that nevertheless we felt was important-led by a young lady called Caroline Criado-Perez. When that campaign was successful, we had a day where there was a lot of national press attention about it. Twenty-four hours later, Caroline contacted me to say that she was receiving threatening and abusive messages on Twitter. I contacted her to check that she was all right. She said that she felt she was. Twenty-four hours after that, she said, "Actually, I’m not okay". I then began reviewing the messages that she was getting and it was absolutely horrendous. She was getting 50 rape threats in an hour. It was an avalanche of abusive, very, very explicit, threatening messages from a wide range of accounts.

At that point, which was the Friday of that week-we had the campaign success on the Wednesday; by the Friday this was happening-I felt a duty of care to Caroline, having been involved in that campaign with her. I contacted the police that I had been working with in my shadow ministerial capacity when I was in the Home Affairs team to say, "Look, this is happening. We need to do something to protect this young lady". I was extremely worried because these people were trying to post up her home address and they were trying to find out personal information about Caroline.

We then also tried to contact Twitter to say, "Look, can you help?" I have to say, Twitter’s response, of all the accounts that we could find for Twitter, was to block Caroline and then to claim that they were the victims of harassment. Twitter has since apologised for that and I think they recognise that that was a completely inappropriate response; that, when somebody was reaching out for help because they were under that kind of attack, it was right for them to get support.

Over the course of that weekend, I continued to liaise with the police to try to identify the level of risk that Caroline was at, because the threats were relentless and escalating by that point, and also to try to hold the companies to account for their failure to act. Unfortunately, on the Sunday evening I then became a target for these people because I had spoken out publicly, both in the media and online, to say that I thought it was inappropriate. I then, along with a number of other women in the public eye, was subjected to the same sorts of threats over the course of the next two weeks. These threats were very graphic, very explicit.

I have always been a passionate defender of free speech. I also think you have to recognise that free speech comes when everybody feels that they can participate and the nature of these threats was that they were absolutely designed to intimidate, to harass, to close down Caroline and myself. They were very graphic, very specific. They were the sort of language that would be illegal offline and the argument that I made, and still make, is that there should be no distinction about this kind of behaviour. Indeed, one of the challenges we have here is to understand how what we have learnt about these sorts of activities offline can be translated into making sure that our online spaces are safe.

It continued for about a week and a half. There have now been a number of arrests. That case is ongoing, so I do not think it is appropriate for me to talk about that per se today, but I can tell you, from a personal perspective, however tough you think that you are, to get that kind of relentless onslaught-and I have had just a fraction of what Caroline has had, and Caroline is an amazingly brave young lady-is horrific. It is absolutely harassment. This is absolutely designed to intimidate, to scare, to frighten you, and it is absolutely an issue that we need to see that both the technology companies and the police understand is part of the modern world.

I think it is inevitable when you do this job that, while you might personally be affected by something, you feel, "What can we do to fix this?" You start looking at where the legislation can help and also where the culture needs to change to understand that, just because it is online, it is not somehow trivial. This is part and parcel of modern day life and indeed it is not Twitter or Facebook or that makes people say these things. It is something in these people that makes them say these things and so we need to be able to identify these people and engage with them and hold them to account for their behaviour because if we do not, the consequences could be quite severe.

In many ways, it was an odd series of events because I had covered both the Data Communications Bill in my previous job and also the protection from harassment law and the stalking legislation. I felt both sides of the concern, which was why it was important what information the police could be asking of these companies and what possibly the risk could be to Caroline. The concern I had on that Friday night was, "Well, is this one person sending 50 rape threats, trying to find her home address, trying to target this woman, or is this 50 people?" We have to find a way. Just as offline, if you were in a pub, say, and it was one person who was persistently aggressively talking to somebody in that way, or 50 people, it would be a different type of risk. We do not have the capacity and the protocols in place as yet to identify those different ranges of risk and, therefore, there is a very real danger that we could miss something very serious as a result.

All the way through this, both as a politician and as somebody who was being affected by it, I had those two things in mind. We do not know what the risk is that we are facing and if people focus on the online element of it, they miss that fundamental question: what is the danger that we are trying to deal with here?

Q62 Chair: Were you able to get an answer to the question of how many people were involved in this?

Stella Creasy: No. As I say, there have been some arrests. It is an issue I have raised with the companies. The internet has come from the 4chan culture. We can have a long academic discourse about the gendered nature of that 4chan culture, but there is a very strong thread of concern that there should not be intervention in the internet, that what is wonderful about the internet is that it is creative. I absolutely agree. What that should not stop us doing is saying to the companies, "But, look, the way in which people are using these technologies is evolving and you yourselves say that you want to make sure they are safe spaces". One of the arguments I have made to the companies is that they themselves could identify whether the same IP address was being used to send threats without having necessarily to pass that information on to the police.

If you recognise that there are different ranges of threats, if you stop thinking this is about online and offline, and start thinking that this is a range of offences that might be created-one of my bugbears about this is people kept trying to say this is about malicious communications and, therefore, the content of the messages being sent. I pushed back and said, "No, you need to understand this is about protection from harassment and the fact that these messages are being sent at all and the impact they are designed to have on the victim. Why does it matter whether it is 50 different people or one person?" If this person has said, "Please stop sending me messages", and they continue to get these messages, that is harassment.

This concept of escalation-somebody who does not leave somebody alone because they are fixating on them, which we know very well from all the research into stalking and into domestic violence and intimate violence-we have not yet translated that understanding to online behaviour. We know that 50% of stalking cases involve online activity. To understand what was happening to Caroline and then to myself for those companies was not just a question of, "Is somebody sending a message that is malicious?" but, "Is their behaviour something that could be escalating?" They could, in the way that they have emergency protocols for dealing with reports of somebody who has gone missing, have emergency protocols where they do not necessarily have to share that data with the police, but they could themselves identify whether it is different people or the same accounts or the same IP address.

One of the things that we kept seeing was people taunting. They would get shut down. We know that Twitter was then monitoring my account and Caroline’s account, and Hadley Freeman and Catherine Mayer, other women who then proceeded to get these messages in that 10-day period. They were immediately suspending accounts, only for an account to open up two seconds later. I had a gentleman who was "killcreasynow"-I apologise for using these words at this time in the morning-"slutcreasynow", "eatcreasynow". He set up a whole series of accounts where he was targeting me with messages and taunting the police that they could not catch him because he could just set up new accounts. If you were the companies, you could identify whether that is different people all spinning off each other because they are caught up in this moment, or one person using the same IP address or even a very similar IP address to be able to say, "This is a different type of threat".

Q63 Chair: Do you have any view as to whether there was a co-ordination taking place, that somebody was encouraging others to follow suit and send you similar messages?

Stella Creasy: No. That is interesting because, in terms of the actual messages that I would classify as relevant for the police, and I was always very clear that there were some I was reporting to the police, and there were some people I was just sending pictures of kittens to because they needed to calm down because they were being hysterical about the idea that somehow this was going to be the end of internet freedom if somebody did something about it. Within that there was a morass of people talking about the issue, because the wonderful thing about Twitter and all sorts of online channels is that we can communicate. Certainly there were people sending messages and badgering other people to get involved in the debate.

There were one or two accounts that were goading people to attack Caroline, certainly; whether those were the same people-Then, two-thirds of the way through, we came across a particularly nasty phenomenon, which was the faux friend. I had people sending me messages, going, "I think I know who is doing this to you and if you follow me I can send you details of them. I am really trying to help you. Look, why are you ignoring me when I am trying to help you, save you from these people? Oh, look, Stella Creasy does not want to be helped. It is all about publicity. Oh, look, Caroline is not taking help".

There is a wonderful academic called Claire Hardaker at Lancaster, who has just received some money-she was sat behind me-and who is just about to do some work on this about that element of behaviour. There was certainly an element of unconscious collaboration, I would argue, in that people identified it. Some people certainly felt it was sport to get involved in that debate and say, "You are obviously not tough enough. Can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen", this kind of rubbish. There were other people who were seeing it as an opportunity to express what they thought was important about the internet, this concept that it is without boundaries. I would argue as someone who is a passionate defender of free speech that is a misunderstanding about the concept of free speech and how it operates.

There was no suggestion, as far as I am aware, that the people who have been arrested knew each other, but that is something, if this proceeds to trial, that perhaps might come out. Certainly you could see in some of the online communication the storm effect; that people get drawn into it and people become aware that you are responding to it. I think that is something people have noticed with trolling-that there is an element where people are trying to get people’s attention, what my mum used to call a professional wind-up merchant. I think that is slightly different from this behaviour, which was, "We want, in an aggressive, difficult fashion, to cause you pain, to cause you harassment".

Certainly some people who were involved were enjoying the idea and, therefore, were drawn into it, because here was an opportunity to get pleasure from somebody else’s pain. Whether they had seen the conversations and, therefore, felt-sorry, I am not being very clear. There were the people who began it, then there were the people who got involved in it, and then the people who kept it going. I would say that there are probably three different groups in that and, within that, probably those latter two categories are people that you are talking about; who wanted to be co-ordinated by what was going on, but perhaps were not necessarily in touch with each other. I am not entirely sure. Maybe they were all direct messaging each other. I do not know. There was certainly that sense that they were being drawn into it by each other.

Q64 Tracey Crouch: Stella, you are high profile, prolific tweeter and obviously this level of abuse has gone too far. What sort of abuse have you been subjected to prior to this latest event?

Stella Creasy: What, by my mother or just in general?

Tracey Crouch: On Twitter.

Stella Creasy: We are all extremely conscious, I am sure, as all people around here who use Twitter and who are in public forums know, that you get a degree of banter, a degree of offensiveness, a degree of people trying to get a rise out of you. I respond robustly. I think I have had robust debates with a lot of people around this table as well. This is very, very different. When I looked at what was happening to Caroline, it was very, very different. This was not people saying, "I disagree with you", or even using colourful language to say they disagree with you or even just being trite and telling you that they think you are an idiot or using more colourful language to say that they think you are an idiot. These were very specific threats to do very, very graphic things that were repetitive; that were matched to, as I say, trying to identify someone’s address, trying to identify where you could find this person to carry it out. I got an email from one of these people, saying, "My accounts have all been suspended. If I apologise to you, can I have them back?" I looked at what this man had been sending and thought, "No, I’m just going to help the police make sure they have this information about you" because it was so different.

Prior to this, I have had one gentleman who, I would say, had edged on this sort of behaviour and indeed went after my mother, who was also on Twitter. That, for me, was an absolute red line, and prior to this summer he was the only person I had ever blocked. I think that is one of the things I really want to get across. As much as it is very easy in this debate to think this is about people not wanting to hear negative messages or not wanting to hear people disagree with them, for me there is a very clear divide. Prior to this summer, I had never blocked anybody, except for this gentleman who had been so utterly offensive to my mum, because I felt it was important to be open.

I felt, as much as it is sometimes unpleasant what some people might say to you, it was important to show that you are willing to debate and discuss and engage with people. A rape threat is not debate, discussion or engagement. A repeated rape threat or a repeated bomb threat, is not debate, discussion or engagement. It is designed to shut down and it is designed to intimidate, and we need to treat these things differently, just as we would in a pub. If someone came and said this stuff to you, you would draw a line between that sort of behaviour and banter and maybe someone being a bit off. You would make those clear distinctions.

Q65 Tracey Crouch: I have not had anything as similar to this experience as you, but I have had death threats and lots of abuse in that sense. Like yourself, I have never blocked anybody, but Twitter’s response to you from this was to just block people. Your response to that was that a rape threat is not a matter of bad manners. Do you think that Twitter were quick enough to respond to your concerns? Do you think they were helpful? Do you think they could have done more?

Stella Creasy: I think Twitter themselves would say they did not get it right. What is interesting, having spent some time now talking to them about these issues, is they are on a journey themselves about how different people in different countries are using their technology. I think they absolutely get that that weekend, where people were reaching out and saying, "Look, this is an attack"-the initial thing was, "Well, report abuse." There was a lot made of an abuse button. If you are getting 50 rape threats an hour, it is not feasible to ask somebody to report every single message. That pressure alone on somebody, let alone the technology, even if it is reporting, "Here is another one, here is another one", it is not feasible to do it. Twitter are on a journey of recognising that that is how people are using their platform, as are Facebook, as are; that these things are evolving and how people can use them to send those messages.

What I was very clear about is that if somebody is willing to say that stuff online, we should not treat it any differently from its being said offline, and if somebody is thinking in that way, there is potentially a problem because it is about this concept of escalation. The argument I had with both the police and the companies was not that it was for us to cope with this or to just block people. There was something about those people that needed to change. Therefore, we needed to be able to identify those people to work out whether they were on that path of escalation; that the kind of person who was trying to post up a young woman’s postal address so that she could be found obviously had some issues, and to simply say it was the responsibility of that young woman to keep herself safe, rather than to deal with the threat that this person posed, was not acceptable. You had to see it in the context of what we know about violence against women and what we know about that escalation process.

Q66 Tracey Crouch: You said there were 50 rape threats in an hour. That surely is an unusual event, or do you think this is commonplace behaviour on Twitter?

Stella Creasy: One of the other things I have asked the companies to do is publish their data about the numbers of reports of abuse they get and the numbers of the concerns so we can get a question of scale. I know that the Metropolitan Police over the summer have said, since this all happened, they had had an increase of 1,500 reports from people about this. I welcome that because I think we have to recognise the scale of what is going on and, therefore, the potential risk. Talk to Women’s Aid or talk to Refuge about the numbers of people they might deal with who have been victims of violent assault or victims of a former partner who is using this technology to commit the crime, who is using it to continue to harass people.

I think to see that as somehow separate, or not to have ways of identifying if somebody is using online forums to harass and to continue a programme of harassment misses a trick, because we would not let that go offline. Women are subjected to a particular type of misogyny online and I think that comes from that culture of the internet. That has to change as women come online and I do think that will change. What I would say is that, as much as these technologies have these problems, there are also great opportunities to redress some of that and to have a public debate about these issues.

There are also other victims of this behaviour. We do not know the scale of how people are using these technologies. My point is that it is not the technology; it is the person underneath it we have to get to grips with. If the technology allows us to identify that person, that is a positive move to me because it allows us to intervene at a much earlier stage. When you look back at some of the histories of people who have been victims of intimate violence, you can see points where they have had this behaviour and everyone has said, "Well, just don’t go on Facebook" or "Don’t go on Twitter". Leaving aside their own personal freedoms, that is a missed opportunity to understand that the risk to that person is escalating.

Q67 Mr Leech: I do not think any reasonable person could try to justify the sort of abuse that you and others have received in this case. It has clearly stepped over a line, but there is also a very grey area on social networking about what one person might think is overstepping the line and what others do not. I suppose my question is, how do we come to a conclusion about what is acceptable and what is not? How much of it is important for us to make sure what we are doing online is very much on the right side of the line, rather than the wrong side of the line, to set a good example?

Stella Creasy: Could I just flip that back to you, John? You said there is a grey area online. Do you think there is a grey area offline?

Mr Leech: Yes, I do, absolutely.

Stella Creasy: That is exactly the point. It is not that the online world is somehow different or separate or distinct in terms of these questions about what is offensive speech or what is a threat. We have laws and we have guidance that the CPS and the police are supposed to use offline. That we do not necessarily think about how we can apply them online is the challenge here, not that those debates do not exist offline as well.

Q68 Mr Leech: Is it not the case, though, that more people are prepared to overstep the line online, rather than offline, because they feel a lot braver behind their computer, rather than face-to-face with someone?

Stella Creasy: I think that is absolutely true. That does not negate the point that this concept of a grey area is not distinct to the online world. I do not think we should be drawing distinctions between online and offline behaviour. I think we should be trying to understand how people are using different forums, whether in person-I have had poison pen letters; I am sure other members of the Committee have as well-or whether online people are sending these messages. There is a risk that we trivialise something. One in five people in the world are on Twitter. That is only going to grow.

This is not a separate, distinct world in which we have to make up new rules. We have to make this work in reality, in the messy reality, of the lives we live. You are absolutely right that anonymity makes it easier to be offensive to somebody, easier to threaten somebody. Someone threatening to rape you or to put a bomb under your house or posting up your address, or coming around to your house, is as threatening and as intimidating online or offline.

Q69 Mr Leech: Do you not think, though, when people stretch boundaries online, it then encourages some people who do not recognise boundaries to overstep the line?

Stella Creasy: I agree, but I do not think that is to do with being online. I think that is part of modern culture. That is why we have guidance and we need to make sure that we are able to understand the risk that people might face and also to be robust about defending the right to be offended. We have also recently changed the laws around the right to be offended, haven’t we? That will apply online as well. We should not let the technology get in the way of saying these are live debates in our society. What people will say to each other in any different context could be offensive or could be designed to intimidate and we need a protocol and way of understanding what that is.

Q70 Mr Leech: Changing the subject slightly, you said earlier that it was not clear whether it was one person making 50 threats or 50 people making one threat. Do you think there is a problem with the systems that the likes of Twitter or other social media sites have in place, that they cannot necessarily distinguish between whether it is one person with 50 threats or 50 people with one threat?

Stella Creasy: No, I think it is perfectly technically possible to do that. Justin Bieber gets millions of tweets a day. You would expect that account to get a lot of traffic. I have talked to Twitter about the concept of an online panic button. Because of this, I have now had a panic button installed in my house. I have a button that if I feel in distress, I can press and the police know, because of the history of what has gone on, that possibly my property might be at risk and, therefore, to come around. Online, if you say, "I am being attacked", and your account is getting a high level of traffic compared with what you might expect it to get-so say the numbers of followers you have or the number of people you follow, or the type of language being used-those algorithms are not particularly difficult to put in place. You have to have the culture as a company that says, "We need to be scanning. We need to be looking for that".

One of the things I have tried to follow up with Twitter is obviously if they are going to have an abuse button and there is every concern, rightly, that people might then-in fact, quite a few of the people on Twitter said, "Right, we are going to tag everything you tweet as an abusive message to see how you like it". But if people are going to use these technologies, what do you do with the information? They hold an awful lot of information about people already, in terms of the account that you set up, where it was set up, what kind of messages it is sending, for them to be able to do that kind of analysis; to be able to say, "There is a distinction between the Justin Bieber account, which we expect to get millions of tweets a day, and what suddenly is happening here. Is that a cause for further investigation?" If my property was getting a lot of reports, the police might flag it up and go, "Hang on a minute, we might need to investigate this a bit further". An online panic button system would allow someone to say, "Look, this is a problem", and for Twitter to say, "Oh, you seem to be getting a lot of information here. Yes, maybe there is something going on. Can we help you?"

Q71 Mr Leech: But my question was not about whether it was technologically possible. It was whether Twitter and others were using the technology to its full potential and whether you think there are other things that they could be doing to make that-

Stella Creasy: The equivalent of an online panic button is absolutely something I have discussed with Twitter. I would like to see other technology companies having it. The answer to your question is no. As far as I am aware, none of them do this at the moment, although I think they are all thinking about it because this is an evolving debate, particularly in the UK, about how people are using these technologies.

Still now somebody sends me an abusive message that crosses that line. I still get one or two of these. Those accounts get suspended very quickly. That process of a kind of online temporary restraining order, essentially, seems to me to be something that these companies can explore, again if they have protocols in place. One of the things I am concerned about is for that not to be abused. In order for that not to be abused, there needs to be a protocol for it. None of these companies have this in place at the moment. I think they are all starting to look at it because of this public debate.

Q72 Mr Leech: Why do you think they have been so reluctant to put these sorts of things in place? Is it just because of an attitude about free speech or is it more about the cost?

Stella Creasy: I think we have all seen these issues as issues around malicious communications, rather than understanding that there could be other forms of behaviour at stake here. How you would then act and how you then, as a company, would abide by local laws, as they all say they would, is very, very different. If you are only being asked to deal with one type of offence, which is malicious communications, then you need a protocol to be able to look at the communication and decide whether it is malicious. If you are being asked to deal with a harassment case where somebody might be sending the most innocuous messages, but it is the contact and it is the fact that somebody is continuing to contact somebody, continuing to set up accounts, continuing to pursue somebody that is the problem, that is a very different type of issue.

I do not think these companies have even begun to scratch the surface of how their technologies are being used to commit those sorts of offences and so what they might be able to do to help protect their users to make it a safe space. The question for all of us as public policymakers is, can we get them to have that conversation and do it in a way that is fair and proportionate so that we do not close down the internet; we open it up for more people because it will be a safer space for more people?

Q73 Steve Rotheram: There is not a country in the world where freedom of speech is absolute. Before we get those people perhaps who are listening or reading the transcript claiming that somehow we are trying to close down freedom of speech, let me say it is absolutely not the case, and, in fact, as you just mentioned, we are trying to defend freedom of speech and encourage more people to take part in the likes of Twitter debates and stuff. You spoke earlier about your personal experiences of being a victim of harassment on Twitter. In your view, are the laws to tackle harassment fit for purpose in the online world?

Stella Creasy: Thank you, Steve, and I just want to pay tribute to the work I know you have been doing about trolling as well, because it was you and I who first started, well before this ever happened to me, and I never ever thought I would need to know quite as intimately and directly what the law would be. I think the honest answer is we do not know. Obviously the protection from harassment law was updated about a year ago. We have seen the first initial statistics about it. That is not just about online behaviour. I think there is a way to go for matching that understanding of what forms of behaviour online are similar to behaviour offline and, therefore, potentially problematic for our police and for the technology companies. I think we have to press to do that because one of my concerns is, from a public value-for-money perspective, the sooner we identify these challenges, the sooner we can get the right training in and the sooner we can prevent some of the crimes that might end up being very, very costly. There is a real value in getting everybody up to speed in the way in which these technologies can be used.

I think the Protection from Harassment Act has a way to go in terms of its application. There are concerns for me about the 4A, 4B-I apologise to the Committee if that is too technical-about how it can be implemented. We have to see. The initial figures look a bit mixed about whether that has been used to truly tackle these problems. I think we have legislation at the moment, but we do not necessarily have the culture at a local level to be able to put it into practice. Certainly I found, when I was trying to get the police to engage in this debate, that I kept getting put through to the person who held the Twitter account for a particular part of the police rather than somebody who could understand that on a Friday evening there was potentially a young girl whose address could be on the web and she could be the target of all sorts of malicious behaviour.

That is not about having separate departments or separate specialist people when this is so much a part of everyday life. You want your police to know the rules of the road. You want your police to know how the internet is being used and to be able to understand it, because that is what they are going to have to police.

Q74 Steve Rotheram: Do you believe it is a problem with shortcomings, in effect, of enforcement, rather than in the legislation itself?

Stella Creasy: I think we will not know whether the legislation matches what we need to be able to deal with until we have more enforcement of it. It is just too early to tell. I think there is a wider point about understanding both the concept of escalation, the concept of harassment, and then how that might happen online as well as offline and what you can do about it, and what you can ask companies to do about it already. What I would say is that, since the summer, I have noticed the police are willing to engage with those threats. They need help. I think that is why we have talked about having cyber specialists coming into the police, because this is about a set of skills matching a cultural change.

Q75 Steve Rotheram: You mentioned Claire Hardaker earlier, who is doing some fantastic work on looking at perhaps the reasons behind why the culture is so different online and offline. Just to broaden that out a bit, are there any changes to legislation you would like to see to combat harmful or illegal content on the internet, and not just in the social media field?

Stella Creasy: From a personal perspective, I think some of this is about the CPS and how they respond to the powers that they have. I would like to see the CPS being very proactive about drawing distinctions and defending that right to be offended, that right for people to be close to the bone-what is lovely about British culture is that we have that stream of quite out-there comedy, out-there satire and out-there debate and discussion-and, in order to defend that, saying, "Here is the stuff that crosses the line. Here is the stuff that we have to be clear is unacceptable, is illegal. It is illegal offline. It should be dealt with the same way online and we will act on that to make sure that we draw that boundary", so that we can have all the lovely banter, the jokes, the debate, the discussion and the humour that is so much part of British culture.

It is genuinely difficult for me to tell on a personal level, until we have seen this case through, whether the law matches that standard. The messages that Caroline has received, for me, certainly breach that level. I would want to see action and I want to see the people who sent those messages being held to account because I have seen the damage that it has done. I have seen how affected she has been personally by it and that is what those people were trying to do, and that is an offence. It is an offence offline and it should be an offence online.

Q76 Steve Rotheram: I agree with that critique of current legislation. I am beginning to believe perhaps there is slightly too much in regard to things falling between the cracks. I have identified at least seven different Acts of Parliament that can be used in the online world for those people who are trolls or who do these despicable acts. Obviously all that legislation was before Facebook and Twitter and there is no mention of trolling. It is not identified. The word "troll" is not even identified in the legislation. Perhaps what it needs is just a clarification, rather than a reworking of any of the laws we currently have.

Stella Creasy: Yes. I have been repetitive with the Committee about this. I do not want to draw a distinction between online and offline because that makes it somehow mean that, if these people were doing it offline, it would be easier to do something about it than online. That is just about ease of access to them, rather than necessarily the technology. We have laws. If they are not necessarily being applied, we have to work out what it is about the way in which the online world operates that makes it harder for people to see the connections between those things. I am also resolute that it is not for those people using the internet, like Caroline, to cope with this pressure. It is for us to find a way of helping to bridge that gap and change the debate on it.

Q77 Mr Bradshaw: Do you know how many arrests there have been?

Stella Creasy: I believe there have been five arrests.

Mr Bradshaw: Do you expect there to be prosecutions?

Stella Creasy: On a personal level I think the case is there, but it is for the police and the CPS to make that decision. I absolutely respect that. The evidence and the behaviour seems to me to fit everything I have ever seen but, again, I am the victim here in that sense and so it is not for me to make that judgment call.

Mr Bradshaw: But you agree that an important part of the law is to act as a deterrent and that prosecutions could act as a deterrent in this case?

Stella Creasy: Prosecutions would be about holding people to account for their behaviour. I do not think there is any disagreement about this, that that kind of behaviour over the summer was absolutely horrific, was completely illegal. The question for all of us is whether we are able to meet the test to make an effective prosecution.

Q78 Mr Bradshaw: What this case seems to have exposed to me, which is very depressing, is an underlying current of violent misogyny that is still there in society. The way you deal with expressions of this is, in other media, through the law. It is not an exact parallel, but I suspect that people are now much more careful about what they say about other people following the action against the Speaker’s wife, for example. We are learning how to use Twitter. What I am saying to you is I hope what this case achieves is a change and that is what I am looking to see: whether you are optimistic, whether this could act as a positive change.

Stella Creasy: I have great optimism about the future being more equal online and offline, because one of the things these technologies and communications do is allow us to have those debates. It is like the No More Page 3 campaign. It has been entirely run online and that has opened up a space to say, "The impact of seeing these images on women is X and this voice needs to be heard". We would not have had the capacity to communicate in that mass way before. As much as, yes, prosecutions can act as a deterrent, I also think what has been positive is that there has been a broader debate that says, "This is completely unacceptable".

I found it very striking that, in retweeting the messages that I considered to be illegal, quite a lot of people said, "I had no idea this was happening"; in the same way that the EverydaySexism Twitter account and all that campaign-again, which is all online-has allowed people to see a side of society and to see some of that misogyny that people had never really engaged with or become aware of. I would love to think that a prosecution would be-and I do not think addressing misogyny, addressing inequality, is going to take that cultural debate. What is fantastic about these technologies and why I am so passionate about making sure we have free speech is that they allow a vehicle for some of that change to take place as well.

Q79 Jim Sheridan: Stella, many, if not all of us, are discovering the nature of our job attracts through social media and emails some of the unsavoury characters in the world.

Stella Creasy: Yes, I am sorry about that. My mum just gets bored. She sends emails. I have told her.

Jim Sheridan: Does she send them to me?

Stella Creasy: I would rather she was sending them to you than me, I tell you; some of the things she tells me.

Jim Sheridan: No, but seriously, as I say, we do attract so many nutcases in the country, but what you have described goes way beyond anything that should be allowed. Just in terms of legislation and to follow on from Steve’s point, the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, it sounds to me-this was before social media kicked off-that it is something we could revisit and look at again and the value of it, if indeed that is still working. The main question I am asking is about the international scene; for instance, in countries where this kind of behaviour may be legal. What can we do to stop it coming from countries that might find this sort of behaviour acceptable?

Stella Creasy: I have no reason to believe that any of the people sending messages to myself or Caroline or indeed any of the other figures over the summer were from anywhere other than the UK and, indeed, all the prosecutions have been in the UK. One of the suggestions that one of the reasons why we can’t bridge that gap between what our law does offline and online is the global nature of the internet. I do not necessarily think that is the case. For these technology companies, the awareness of how people are using their tools to create crime is an interesting question because that then could apply to other jurisdictions in terms of if you were to see escalating behaviour. It is interesting. The woman who is in charge of online safety at Twitter comes from a domestic violence background and said to me, "Oh, yes, I totally get the point you are making", and you are thinking, "Okay, so why don’t you have the systems in place to then be able to address this?"

I think we have to be wary of the idea that, because the internet is global, there can be no local response or no local engagement on any of these issues. Nothing has disproved that to me so far. We also have to be very careful and one of the things that is so important about the internet remaining a space where people can have freedom and anonymity is that it has also been a force for good in terms of human rights issues. It has been a force for good in terms of giving a space for people speak freely, where they are not given freedom in their own countries.

We have asked Twitter to make it clearer that harassment was not acceptable in their guidelines. That cuts across all their jurisdictions. At that point, Toby Young accused me of being like a Chinese dictator for suggesting that harassment should not happen online. I wanted to point out to him that this was already illegal in this country. What is harassment may well be in the eye of the beholder in some countries and, therefore, it is about the systems that these companies have to assess the complaints that they get, which is why we need to see the scale of the complaints. In the UK they say they comply with local laws. We have the Protection from Harassment Act. The question is, how are they then using that information to be able to make sure that they are responding to any concerns that are raised with them? They have a way to go yet. So do a lot of companies. That Twitter are engaging in this debate for me is very welcome. I would like to see that then develop.

Q80 Jim Sheridan: If you are receiving horrific emails or tweets or whatever it may be, for me it does not matter where it comes from. Do you think there is anything more that the providers can do to stop this in a global market?

Stella Creasy: As I say, what is interesting is whether it is happening in other countries and I think there are cultural variations in how people are using these technologies around the world. These companies are also growing. Twitter did not exist five or six years ago, so it is growing as an organisation to have the capacity to deal with it. They now have a new team of people looking at online safety. I would expect them to take the lessons they are learning from the UK and think about whether they can be applied to any form of behaviour on their platform around the world. That will be a question for Twitter. It would be a good question if you guys are speaking to them about it. What we have to focus on is how we keep our systems safe in the UK. How do we make sure that every system in the UK has the freedoms that we want them to have, online and offline? How do we make sure, when we get instances like this, that our own local laws are being used to best effect to open up that space?

Q81 Philip Davies: I would like to think of myself as a great champion of free speech, but clearly what you and Caroline and others have faced is beyond what anybody would hopefully think was acceptable. I just wondered whether you felt, given the scale of Twitter and the pressures on, for example, the police, this is something that is just going to be in many respects unsolvable through the normal course of the law in the sense that, if Twitter is already at the extent it is and is going to grow further and police resources are so stretched, is it going to be the case that the police, even with the best will in the world, will simply not have the resources to be able to pursue all these particular cases?

Stella Creasy: I appreciate what you are saying, Philip, about recognising that this is about the freedom of speech of people like myself and Caroline to not be subjected to this kind of behaviour.

Philip Davies: Absolutely, yes.

Stella Creasy: I think the question for all of us is, what does that behaviour embody? The person who uses this platform to repetitively send those kind of messages-what else might they escalate to do? How else is this connected to other forms of crime? That is the way to look at it, which is not to say that somehow there is something unique about online behaviours but to ask where they interact with offline behaviours. When you do that and, as I say, when you look at some of the cases around stalking and harassment and you see people getting messages online and people saying, "Well, just don’t go on to Facebook" or "Don’t use these forums", rather than recognising that the person who is sending those messages is fixating on somebody, could then become an even more severe risk to that person, and the sooner we intervene, the sooner we might be able to address that person’s behaviour, prevent in the future much more damaging and indeed more expensive and resource-intensive crime from taking place.

Keeping people safe-there is a gender issue in this and it is disproportionately women who face these challenges-will be both better for the public purse and receive better outcomes. I understand the concern about resources. What I am saying is that the online world is an opening to seeing and identifying crime and detecting it quicker. We should see that as an opportunity both to save money and get better outcomes, rather than another set of issues to deal with.

The other example from this for me was that the EDL were using Twitter and Facebook to organise coming to cause problems in Walthamstow. There was a time-lag between the police understanding that, seeing that information and engaging with it-in the same way during the riots we saw a time-lag between the police engaging and interacting with that information-to be able to then use the online world to detect and prevent crime. There is a big value-for-money argument about how, if you understand that is how people are using these technologies and you have a way of dealing with them, you can get things at source in a way that if you wait until much later on, they will become much more expensive. We are nowhere near there yet, and in fact what people are trying to say to me is, "Well, don’t we need specialist units?" which to me is a bit like saying, "Don’t the police need a specialist unit for dealing with the telephone?" This is so much a part of everyday life, we need our police to be able to use their own personal experience of it to understand how it might then lead on to further crime.

Philip Davies: Obviously I am delighted that there have been some arrests and I hope there will be prosecutions and convictions and, like Ben Bradshaw, I hope that that will act as a deterrent so that people realise that they can’t get away with this. Hopefully that will be the case. I just wondered whether, when you have received these threats and people like Caroline have received these threats, which must be horrendous, you felt-and do you know whether Caroline felt-that they were genuine threats in terms of people were intending to carry out these things that they were saying or whether they were just unacceptable abuse?

Stella Creasy: I think if someone is trying to post up your home address, Philip, that is pretty frightening and that is very, very distressing to somebody. To then receive continued threats, continued aggression, continued details about what someone is going to do-these people went into tremendous detail about what they might do to my dead body once they had killed me and once they had done horrible things to me and how they might do it again. I defy anybody not to find that deeply threatening, deeply unpleasant. This is the thing about the Protection from Harassment Act. It is not about the content. It is about the impact on the person. Nobody can be unaffected by receiving that kind of avalanche of threatening behaviour over a persistent period of time, to not think, "Actually, is that person outside, who I don’t know, the person who has been sending those messages?" The thing about the anonymity of the internet is that it could be anybody sending those types of messages to you. It becomes even more distressing in a way, because you do not know who it is who feels the need to send you that sort of message.

Q82 Philip Davies: No, I do not disagree with any of it. I am simply playing devil’s advocate. I am trying to think about some of the defences that some of the internet social media sites might give. I was just anticipating what you thought if they were to argue that, if there are these people out there and they are serious about these threats, it is better for the law enforcement agencies that they are out there in public so they are able to be traced, rather than to be still there but untraceable and unknown; that in some respects it would be easier for the law authorities to deal with these people, if they are serious about doing this thing, if it is up there for them to trace.

Stella Creasy: We should use people as bait to draw these people out?

Philip Davies: I am merely asking for your response to what may be a line of defence that these social media companies give.

Stella Creasy: Here is the thing, Philip. Surely what matters here is the victim. The victim was Caroline and her life was dramatically changed by the behaviour of these people. Our job is to make sure that nobody’s life should be curtailed and nobody’s free speech should be curtailed by the behaviour of these people; that it is not for Caroline to cope because "at least we know who these people are", as a containment strategy. It is for us to say both in law and in culture, "This has to change, because it is not part of the society we want to live in".

Philip Davies: No, I agree. I was not giving you my opinion. I was trying to pre-empt what people might say.

Chair: I think we had better call a halt at this point. We have another two panels. Stella, can I thank you very much for coming?

Stella Creasy: Yes, and can I just thank the Committee for looking into this? I think it is difficult to get right, but it is welcome that you guys are looking at how you could get it right and how you could support both the police and the technology companies to work with us.

Chair: Thank you.

Examination of Witness

Witnesses: Nicholas Lansman, Secretary General, Internet Services Providers’ Association, Dido Harding, Chief Executive Officer, TalkTalk Group, and Hamish Macleod, Chair, Mobile Broadband Group, gave evidence.

Q83 Chair: For our second session, can I welcome Dido Harding, the Chief Executive of TalkTalk Group, Hamish Macleod, the Chair of the Mobile Broadband Group, and Nicholas Lansman, Secretary General of the Internet Services Providers’ Association, and invite Gerry Sutcliffe to start off?

Mr Sutcliffe: The topic of our inquiry is online safety and, notwithstanding the evidence we have just received, we recognise we are talking about a growing situation here, not a closing down, and that is not our intention. Clearly there are responsibilities and there are issues that flow from that in terms of what needs to happen. It would be interesting to hear, right from the start, what you do already to prevent access to harmful or illegal material online; just a general flavour of what it is about at the moment. Whoever wants to start off.

Nicholas Lansman: Shall I kick off with some general points?

Mr Sutcliffe: Yes.

Nicholas Lansman: First, you have to treat illegal material very separately from legal, which might be age-appropriate. With illegal material, right across the industry, whether mobile or internet, have done a lot of work over many years here, primarily setting up the Internet Watch Foundation in 1996, and illegal material is dealt with in a variety of ways. The priority is to remove illegal material from the source. In the UK we now have much less than 1% of illegal material that is hosted in the UK. Secondly, to try to remove it even when it is abroad and, thirdly, to create, with the IWF, a blocking list so that ISPs can block illegal material before people can stumble across it. That is illegal material and what I mean by that is child abuse material, but also terrorist material. I think the industry has been extremely effective in dealing with that side of things.

In terms of age-appropriate material, there have been huge developments more recently and I will allow Dido to contribute to that discussion. Principally, there have been developments in terms of creating an active choice for customers when they purchase broadband to make that decision of whether they want to engage filtering. Filtering is now going to be provided for free and a whole-home solution. It is very important that it applies to all devices in the home, whether it is PCs, laptops, tablets or indeed smartphones. Those filtering technologies will be easy to use.

Q84 Mr Sutcliffe: Easy to use, but is there not an education and development process to go alongside that? It is all right having the technology to deal with it, but how do you encourage people to be active?

Nicholas Lansman: That is a very good point. Technology alone is not the only solution and education and awareness is fundamental to the process. ISPs over many years have provided material on websites, on leaflets. They have also been visiting schools to educate teachers and parents. There is also the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. We also have Safer Internet Day. A great deal is being done to educate. Still more needs to be done and this is about creating the tools to ensure that parents become confident with the use of the internet and that they can also communicate that and have that dialogue with their own children.

Dido Harding: I have said a number of times that I think internet safety is the road safety of our generation. When I was a child, my parents were advertised that with Clunk Click. We had the Green Cross Code. Seatbelts were just being rolled out into cars. The airbag had not yet been invented. You had a whole load of technology innovation, public awareness and education in schools. I can remember the Green Cross man coming to my school. Internet safety is as broad an issue, if not broader, than road safety for our generation. There is a lot that is happening on the technology front. There is a lot that is starting. We in TalkTalk have lobbied heavily to see internet safety in the primary curriculum and we are delighted to see that it will be coming in. There is a lot that needs to happen in education and public awareness. There is not one single bullet. We all have a role to play in making sure that the digital world is safer than it is today.

Q85 Mr Sutcliffe: I like the analogy of the road safety because I think you are right, but part of the problem that we have, in terms of the evidence and in our own lives, is that parents do not go in to watch what the kids are watching online and things like that. The analogy about if a child had a TV set in the bedroom, years gone by, there would be an issue about what they were watching. What is concerning me is that the technology is there, but there is not the cultural change in terms of parents being able to understand what they need to be doing.

Dido Harding: Nicholas mentions filtering. At TalkTalk we have had a whole-home filtering product called HomeSafe available now for just under 2.5 years. We have about 1.2 million of our 4 million customers use it and 400,000 customers have activated the Kids Safe element of that, choosing to block certain content in their home. Just as you say, we have learnt that it is important to keep it simple because most of us find the technology baffling. You do have to have something that covers the whole home and you also have to work hard, and all four of the major ISPs have committed to work on a public awareness campaign, because all of us are learning how to use this. It is not just enough as an ISP to provide the gadget. You have to help people understand how they might use it. The most valuable thing you can do as a parent with young children, and I say this as one, is talk to your children about what they do online. If you don’t engage with what they are doing online, no technology is going to help them.

Mr Sutcliffe: I think that is spot-on.

Hamish Macleod: Can I just make a mobile contribution? As far as the Internet Watch Foundation and the illegal side of things goes, our approach is very similar to the fixed ISPs. We take the list. It gets updated twice a day and any attempt to access sites on the illegal list will be frustrated. As far as the age-inappropriate content is concerned, people first started to use the mobile to access the internet about eight or nine years ago. At that time we published a code of practice and part of the code was that we offered a filter for the internet browsing service on the mobile. For all prepaid phones, though, the filter was put in by default. For most contract phones it was also put on by default and in the next 12 months for all contract phones it will be put on by default.

Mr Sutcliffe: The filters will be basically free? They will come as standard?

Hamish Macleod: Absolutely, there is no charge for them.

Q86 Mr Sutcliffe: Is there a need for consistency of approach across the range of providers and is that happening?

Hamish Macleod: The approach we have taken on the mobile is that, when we first published the code back in 2004, we appointed a body called the Independent Mobile Classification Body to achieve this level of consistency. It was a subsidiary of the premium rate regulator, who was called ICSTIS at the time. The reason for that was that most of the content about which there might have been some concern was premium rate adult content, so it made sense to work hand in hand with the premium rate regulator. We carried out a review of that earlier this year and, as a result of that review, we have appointed the British Board of Film Classification as our independent body who give us editorial advice as to how we should calibrate the filters.

Q87 Mr Sutcliffe: What are the linkages like with law enforcement agencies and trying to help them with the speed of the technological changes that are taking place? Do you think that is working well or could more be done?

Nicholas Lansman: I think it is working very well. There is a long-standing process in place where, according to the regulations, ISPs will be approached by law enforcement to hand over data and that is done. It seems to work well and we know that, in a variety of cases, law enforcement have taken and followed those investigations and will make prosecutions where people are behaving illegally online.

Hamish Macleod: Can I make one point on that, though? A few months ago there was a summit held with the major ISPs and mobile companies about the work of the Internet Watch Foundation and whether they should be more proactive in seeking out illegal images on the internet because, up to that point, the memorandum of understanding specifically with the CPS was that you could only respond to public reports and then you could go and look for the stuff. Now we are moving to a point where they will go out and look for the stuff. That should be more efficient because, of the level of public reports coming in, only about one in 10 of them are illegal. That should be more efficient and should lead to fewer public reports, we hope, because they are getting to the content before the public does.

However, the IWF is part of a safeguarding ecosystem. They are not an island. They are being more proactive and generating more intelligence to pass either to our own law enforcement agencies or internationally, to overseas. That will generate more work in other parts of the ecosystem. If we are going to put more resources into the IWF, more resources need to go into other parts of the system too, otherwise we are just creating traffic jams in other bits of the net.

Q88 Mr Sutcliffe: It is good to hear that there is a level of consistency there now. You have talked about the easy work, if you like, the illegal, which is clearly identified as illegal and, therefore, it has to be stopped. One thing that concerns me is the cultural issues that are around. In evidence at the last session, 30% of children under the age of 12 thought it was okay to be bullied or had experience of being bullied on the net. Notwithstanding the massive amount of work that it has done to deal with the illegal situation, how do you deal with the cultural changes and trying to get different responses across because of some of the problems that people are already facing through the surveys that already exist?

Dido Harding: I think step by step would be my rather simplistic answer. The number of things that can happen to a child online are just as many as can happen in the playground, only it is more immediate and they have the whole world at their fingertips. The wonder of the internet, as Stella Creasy set out, is that it has a double-edged sword element to it. That is why I go back to road safety. We have to think about all of the different types of behaviour that happen in the playground.

On bullying, I do not think that the fundamental issue is any different from being in the playground. The adult supervising the playground has a role to play. The children have a role to play, as do their parents, and there is a bigger public awareness challenge on all those dimensions because it is so much less visible than your child being physically bullied in the playground. I don’t think you can overstate the importance of people such as yourselves thinking deeply about this. The social and moral framework for the digital world does not exist yet.

I do think there is quite an important role for legislators to play in thinking through where the absolute black and white rules are that we need to put in place. There is a clear role for all of the owners or builders of the playgrounds, whether those are the social networking sites or the internet service providers themselves, to think through, "How do you provide parents, teachers and children with the tools to make that environment safer?" There is a clear role for all the educators to make sure that we are keeping up with that technology, not just for our children but in educating parents and teachers themselves.

I wish I could say that there was a magic bullet. There is not. We are the generation that has to quite calmly and logically think through each of these issues.

Q89 Chair: Without wishing to stray too far into the data communications debate, which would keep us going probably for the rest of the day, can I ask you, first of all, how much data in terms of which individuals are accessing sites, downloading images and sending abusive messages do you keep and how easy is it for the police, for instance, to have access to it?

Dido Harding: I am very happy to answer for TalkTalk and you can fill in the gaps. Obviously we work under RIPA. From a TalkTalk perspective, we currently provide call data, IP addresses, subscriber details both for our mobile customers and our fixed customers, session details, so how long they have been online, IP log history and data access setup, so how they are accessing it, and we will also provide email addresses, payment details, customer notes and email headers. All that is governed by RIPA. We store those data in the same way that we would store our own customer data. We retain data for 12 months. We respond as quickly as all the Government authorities accessing through RIPA require of us, and are compensated for them for doing that. I think that process works reasonably well. I would be disappointed if you heard otherwise from those authorities.

Chair: Would that cover Twitter postings?

Dido Harding: No. We do not store browsing history; so exactly where you have gone and what you have done, which pages you have looked at, we do not store any of that. That is not governed by RIPA today. I do think it is important that, in this, the ISPs are not choosing their own rules. This is something that is clearly for you, not for my colleagues and me, to make the judgments. We act absolutely within the letter of RIPA and store the data that is required of us there.

Q90 Chair: RIPA itself is now a little ancient in terms of the speed with which things are advancing. Do you think it needs to be revisited?

Dido Harding: I think that the debate that is currently ongoing is very important, precisely as you highlight, Chairman. The tools and techniques are changing so much. Yes, I think it is very important to have that debate and to make sure that we keep up to date.

Chair: Hamish and Nicholas, do you wish to add anything?

Nicholas Lansman: If I can just add to that, as I was explaining, that is a very similar setup to the other internet service providers. I think it is important that, with an extension to the data requirements, the Home Office make their case and pass legislation and that is fully debated. It is very important to note that the ISPs, as they comply with RIPA, will comply with amendments to it if that is the case. Hamish made a point earlier about the fact that we have a lot of data and I think in a previous session Peter Davies, the CEO of CEOP, outlined the fact that there are possibly thousands of potential investigations that perhaps should be taking place if resources would allow. Just collecting more and more data that may well be useful will point out an even greater problem in the lack of resources to follow up.

Hamish Macleod: I do not have anything in particular to add to that.

Chair: Basically your industry follows the same practices that TalkTalk has described?

Hamish Macleod: Yes. There are a few technical differences but it is, policy-wise, exactly the same.

Q91 Chair: It does not matter if I am using a mobile device or a fixed broadband device? The same provisions will apply?

Hamish Macleod: More or less. I am not entirely sure what the fixed situation is. In mobile there is not necessarily a one-to-one mapping between the IP address that is being used and the user because we do not have enough IP addresses to go around. We use something called NAT, network address translation-he says quietly-and that generates an absolutely enormous amount of data.

Q92 Chair: If I used a mobile device in Starbucks, are you able to identify that it is me?

Hamish Macleod: Connecting how?

Chair: On a public wi-fi system.

Hamish Macleod: I don’t know I am afraid.

Nicholas Lansman: I am pretty sure that the providers of the public wi-fis, whether it is in Starbucks or anywhere else, are also covered under the legislation. Whether it is BT or other cloud providers, they will be able to provide that data to enforcement. It is worth underlining-

Chair: But it is not much use to know the person who has accessed inappropriate material from Starbucks on Victoria Street.

Nicholas Lansman: I think another discussion that we will possibly have is the issue about anonymity and whether that can mean you can’t trace people. That is not the case. As we found in the previous session, people commenting on Twitter and making comments are subject to prosecutions, just like anyone else. It is worth underlining that our systems have been in place for quite some time and work well. We have single points of contact within the Home Office. They can be in contact with internet service providers simply. The system effectively works well.

Q93 Tracey Crouch: Could I just follow up, just to be clear in my mind, Ms Harding, on what you were saying about collecting all the data and keeping it? That is available upon request under the legislation, but if somebody was accessing illegal content, such as child abuse images, does that flag up in your systems and you can then pass that over, or does it have to come from the enforcement agencies before you give that material?

Dido Harding: As it currently works, we respond reactively to requests from CEOP. It is one of the things that we have been discussing with the Internet Watch Foundation as part of moving the IWF activities to being more proactive; so proactively identifying sites and then potentially proactively identifying offenders. This is all fraught with moral hazard and, in doing something like that, I would only want to consider it with the full legal authority and not as an ISP decide for myself that I fancy doing it with my customers.

I feel very strongly the weight of responsibility as an internet service provider in that our customers place their faith in the fact that it is their data, not our data, to choose what to do with and, therefore, we need a clear legal framework on what we store and what we do not store. That is why I say we store the information that we are required to by RIPA and we store the information that we need in order to serve our customers. We do not keep browsing history of where our customers browse every day of the week-that is their data, not ours-unless or until there was a change in legislation that required us to.

Q94 Tracey Crouch: But you are able to keep internet browsing and other communications data under the Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009, I believe. You could, if you wanted to, keep that data.

Dido Harding: Technically we could. There are different views from the lawyers on whether our customers would be expecting us to store browsing history. For example, when we launched HomeSafe and when we first trialled HomeSafe, which is, based on where you are browsing in your home, you have set a series of filters that in your home, for example, suicide and self-harm sites can’t be seen. That requires us to store for you that you want suicide and self-harm sites blocked. A number of organisations and the ICO themselves were very concerned that that did not mean we were storing the history of where you were browsing. We went through a number of stages to give the ICO confidence that we were not storing unnecessary information that our customers would not necessarily want us to. That is why I say I am very cautious about what data we store, if it is our customers’ data as opposed to stuff that we need in order to run the business for them.

Q95 Tracey Crouch: While I completely understand the moral issues that you highlight about people accessing sites that they want to-I can appreciate that around, for example, online pornography-the issue about illegal images of child abuse, for example, is something completely separate.

Dido Harding: Yes, I agree. I do agree.

Tracey Crouch: If you are seeing information or data from your customers, who are accessing sites that are illegal, does that not have a moral duty on you as a provider?

Dido Harding: I completely agree. If you are starting to think through the stages at which it would be appropriate to expect ISPs to pass that information through, the easiest and most obvious is illegal child abuse images, which are illegal to look at, illegal to create, illegal to pass on, and it is a criminal rather than a civil offence. I do agree with you and that is why, through the IWF, we are working through a process to do that. It is much less obvious as you work your way back, because I do not think our customers want internet service providers to store their history of which car sites you have visited so that we can sell it to car manufacturers for you to be bombarded with emails about buying cars. It is very important that the ISPs do not feel like it is a free-for-all to use that data. Our customers do not expect that of us. We have been thinking through, if it is entirely criminal, how we get to a place where we can do that proactively with CEOP.

Q96 Tracey Crouch: In our first oral evidence session, we heard some shocking statistics about child abuse images on the internet, talking about millions of images. 81% of those images involved children under the age of 10, 4% of children under the age of two, and over half of them were level four or level five images. Do you think that the ISPs are being effective at blocking these sites, these images?

Dido Harding: We are only as effective as collectively through the IWF we are effective at identifying the images. I think we all recognise that the reactive approach, although it has taken the UK to a much better place than a number of other countries, has not solved the problem. Hence all the ISPs are committing to increasing the funding of the IWF so that the IWF can proactively go out and identify sites that we could all block. No, I do not think anyone working in the industry can say, "Yes, this is a job well done". It is a job that we know we have to do a lot more.

Tracey Crouch: Do you have anything to add?

Nicholas Lansman: I think it is fair to say that there is no complacency in this area. While the internet industry is quite proud of having set up the Internet Watch Foundation, it is an ongoing battle and I think that several changes are taking place over time to make the IWF more effective. It is true to say that, of child abuse images, less than 1% are hosted in the UK, but they are still going around the world. The IWF also works with bodies abroad to make sure they are trying to get them blocked at the source, because I think that is the priority. Blocking is part of the solution, but for the internet industry it is more important that we try to remove this content at the source, whether it is in the UK, more likely to be elsewhere, in the US and so forth.

In addition to the extra resource that the IWF will be getting through additional membership payments from members, there is also a development in terms of delivering splash pages. If someone accidentally comes across child abuse images, rather than getting an error message that just stops them accessing the site they will now start to get splash pages that will identify it is illegal material and they should not look at it. These are some of the developments that are taking place, but you are right. There is no complacency and the internet industry continues to work with the IWF, but also with CEOP and under areas of law enforcement to make sure that the battle to get rid of child abuse images and protect children online continues.

Hamish Macleod: The Government has announced that it is joining various international alliances to tackle the problem. At the moment, the impression I get is that it is all still a little bit aspirational and they are just finding their feet. Those alliances need to have clear deliverables and a clear action plan to improve the situation because, for a great number of years now, the vast majority of these sites have been hosted outside the UK and international action and co-operation is what is going to lead to them being removed and the people who are putting them up there prosecuted.

Tracey Crouch: Do you think that requires a will or money, or both?

Hamish Macleod: I am sure it will require both, yes.

Q97 Tracey Crouch: I understand that TalkTalk automatically downloads the blocked list of known websites containing illegal images on a daily basis. Is that right?

Dido Harding: Yes.

Q98 Tracey Crouch: Two related questions. First, do you think that a daily basis is fast enough and what time of day do you do it? In my mind, if you are doing it in the morning, by the time people are accessing in the evening, probably new sites have popped up or been created. It is just out of interest.

Dido Harding: I am ashamed to say I do not know what time of day. I will check for you.

Tracey Crouch: I would be interested to know, because it is such a fast-moving beast. Maybe I have some sort of prejudice that these things are only being accessed in the evening, but I just wonder-

Dido Harding: You are quite right. Let me go back. I will get that for you. I can’t speak for the other ISPs. For TalkTalk, it is currently a manual process. There is a temptation to believe that telecoms companies are all entirely automated. I wish we were. My goal is to be able to automate it. Then I should be able to consume it much faster.

Nicholas Lansman: I will check, but I understand that twice a day there is an update to the list.

Chair: That is updated twice a day?

Nicholas Lansman: Yes.

Dido Harding: Then we consume it once a day.

Chair: You only do it once a day.

Q99 Steve Rotheram: I think Tracey has elicited a response for the first question I had, so if we move on. Is there a case for more effective filtering of legal adult content, which could be obscene if it was viewed by a child?

Hamish Macleod: The mobile filtering has been in place since 2005 and it covers what we describe as age-inappropriate. The framework that decides if it is age-inappropriate or not is given to us by the BBFC and it covers violence, pornography-type stuff, behavioural stuff such as promotion of suicide, promotion of anorexia, those sorts of sites; all the topics that are of major public policy concern are covered by their framework, whether that is obscene or just 18-type content that you would see in the cinema.

Q100 Steve Rotheram: Information is filtered. There are filters. How effective are the filters?

Hamish Macleod: I believe they are very effective. The accusations that are thrown at us more often are about over-blocking of content, where we get a handful of reports each month about accidentally over-blocking. Again, part of the reason for the move to the BBFC is to make that process a little bit more slick so that if a website owner or a member of the public believes that a site is being over-blocked, or under-blocked, they are able to report it and the first port of call is for their mobile operator to look at that. Most of the time it is accidental and it is fairly easy to speak to the filtering company and say, "Please can you just change the categorisation of that website so that it either is not blocked or is blocked, as appropriate?"

Q101 Steve Rotheram: They are filtered at network level?

Hamish Macleod: Yes, that is right.

Steve Rotheram: How about at mobile device level?

Hamish Macleod: Not very often, no. The products that are available in the market to filter it at device level tend to be a bit blunt. It is either about "turn on the internet" or "turn off the internet", or they whitelist a very few sites or blacklist a very few sites. From our point of view, it is an area that we would like to see discussed a little more in the public domain because a lot of the focus has been on what can be done at network level, but what can be done at browser level, what can be done at operating system level, what can be done at the content provider level or what can be done at device level? They all have a contribution to make to this so that people can tailor the services and the protections they want as best they can, but we do the filtering at network level in accordance with the framework that is independently provided for us.

Dido Harding: I would say that there is still an awful lot to do to improve the quality of filtering tools that you give parents. We have had HomeSafe in the market for 2.5 years. I would be the first to say that it is not perfect and that there is a lot more to do to make it something that is easier for parents to understand and give some of the tools. Firstly, I think it is important to remember that parents are not just interested in blocking adult content. They are, if anything, more worried about suicide and self-harm. They want to block gaming or gambling. At certain times of the day they want to block access to social networking so that their children do their homework. It is important to look at this more broadly than simply the, admittedly, very serious issue of the wealth of adult content online.

First, thinking about different types of content. Then also we think whole-home network-based solutions play a very important role, but they are not the only solution. If you have teenagers and very young children in the same household with multiple different devices, you will want a more sophisticated filtering solution that enables your 16-year-old to do their homework, while it absolutely ensures that your three-year-old cannot stumble on something that they are not expecting. The parents themselves may want access to some of those different sites.

We get customers complaining that they have turned on HomeSafe and all the filters, one of which is for alcohol-related sites, and that blocks Waitrose wines. We know that the technology is not quite there yet. When my competitor ISPs launch their network blocking solutions, I am expecting that they will be better than mine in some ways and that will be a good thing. This is still an area where innovation can get you a march against your competitors and there is real consumer demand for tools that are simple to use but meet their needs. I would want the Committee to feel that both mobile and fixed-line telcos recognise this is something that we have to keep working at, because our consumers tell us loud and clear that we do not quite have it right yet.

Nicholas Lansman: Just a couple of issues. I have previously mentioned over-blocking and under-blocking, which is taken very seriously, but I think it is important to note that, while the technology is improving and will continue to improve to make sure that parents have a tool that they can use in their homes to make sure it is age-specific and to ensure their children see only content that is appropriate for them, technology is not a replacement for good parenting.

I know the industry is working with Government and charities to ensure that parents have adequate information and that they can feel confident about how the internet works and also confident in using the technologies, but also to have that dialogue with their children, which is very important. These are some of the points that came out of various Government reviews such as the Byron Review and indeed the Bailey Review more recently, where it talked about a partnership approach to child safety. Industry has an element of responsibility to provide those tools, but equally there is the responsibility for parents and the responsibility for Government also to help with that education process.

Dido talked about how we have had many decades of education to deal with how you drive, use seatbelts, drive safely and do not drink and drive. Equally, there have been campaigns for years about learning to swim, children playing safety with matches, how to climb ladders safely and even recently how to barbecue your sausages. I think it is important to note that this education, which some of your questions earlier referred to, is how you get this change in how we understand the technology and use it safely. The answer is it will take time and industry is certainly stepping up to the mark and providing those tools and some of the education. We feel it is also incumbent on parents, teachers and the Government to also assist with that education role.

Dido Harding: What we have learnt is that parents value being prompted to think about this. Since we adopted active choice, if you go on to your account page with TalkTalk and you have not turned HomeSafe on, it will pop up and prompt you to say you haven’t and, if you have children in your house at any time, we strongly recommend you do. We find that the vast majority of our customers welcome that interruption and the vast majority of them with children at home turn it on as a result. I do think this is a space where proactive action from all the participants is required. It is not just going to happen by osmosis.

Q102 Steve Rotheram: But any parent of a certain age will know that if you have a technological problem then the first person you go to is the 12-year-old or 13-year-old. How easily can children circumvent these filters?

Dido Harding: Nothing in life is perfect. We lock the doors of our houses, even though we know a burglar could get in. I would not want to pretend that our safeguards are 100% perfect, but if you change the HomeSafe settings the account holder gets an email immediately saying that you have done this. The only way, in our system, that your 12-year-old could get control of the filtering is if your 12-year-old is also paying the bill for your home phone and broadband. In order to do that they will have to set up a direct debit, which they will not be able to do at at age 12.

Clearly, some very clever 12-year-olds may well have masqueraded as 25-year-olds and be paying the home phone bill, but all our analysis suggests that is very tiny percentage. That closed loop where the accountholder is automatically informed if any of the settings are changed and you can only set them if you are in the account space where you pay your bill is our closed loop.

Hamish Macleod: In mobile, you would go through an age verification process before you can take the filters off. On the education point, this something we have been again plugging away at for years and years and years, both individual operators and collectively; distributing materials within the schools to support teachers. It is not just about inappropriate content, of course. It is about inappropriate behaviour. It is about making sure you have physical security of your device-do you have a PIN number on your mobile to prevent unauthorised use, to prevent from people going on to it and spoofing you-and protecting your personal data and all that sort of thing.

For years we have been putting this stuff into the schools. I am not fully convinced that the Government is giving it enough support within the school system, because that is the easiest point to access children in a formal setting. It should not just be about the ICT doing it. It is about all teachers. Through the teacher training programme, teaching them how to use technology in the teaching environment, but also how to use it responsibly and safely and encouraging children to behave responsibly because it is their behaviour that is so critical.

Q103 Mr Leech: Can I just ask why TalkTalk decided to become the first ISP to have this unavoidable choice?

Dido Harding: We decided to build HomeSafe about five years ago before I became the chief executive. It was my chairman and my chief technology officer’s brainwave that we could build a whole-home network-based solution. We have a much younger, simpler telecoms network-techno-babble for a second, an all-IP network-that makes it technically simpler and easier for us to do it and our customers told us that they were really worried about it.

Unashamedly, we launched HomeSafe because we thought it was brilliant for us as a business, that it made good business sense to offer our customers something they wanted, and to bundle it in for free with our product. I can’t take any of the credit for that. It was my chairman, before I even joined. We stand by it. It cost us of the order of £25 million to build and a lot of people thought it was not possible to do. There are not many things, to be honest, where in TalkTalk I am saying I have done something that my competitors are about to do. We think it stood us in very good stead, that our customers who use it are much more loyal to TalkTalk as a result. It has been a good investment.

Q104 Mr Leech: What stopped other providers from doing it before now?

Dido Harding: I am probably not the right person to answer that question.

Nicholas Lansman: I do not want to speak on behalf of the other three main providers.

Mr Leech: You can have a guess.

Nicholas Lansman: The point is now that this code of practice has been agreed by four of the main consumer-focused ISPs. They all agree that active choice or this unavoidable choice-so when you have a new customer, they ring up or contact you on the internet, they have to make that decision about whether they want to turn on parental controls-is now agreed across the board. It is good that TalkTalk were the pioneers, in that sense, but I know the other players in the industry are stepping up to the mark. We have introduced a whole range of child protection measures. We have talked about choice. We have all talked about the filtering for free, right across the board, through the whole home. These are just some of the developments that have been taking place over the last year and will continue into 2014. There has been a huge investment and some major developments of which the whole industry is quite proud.

Dido Harding: I would say, on a broader topic, what you have in the UK telecoms market, both fixed line and mobile, is two very highly competitive markets. The BBC ran something yesterday on, "Why is it that in the US you have to pay so much more for your broadband?" and the basic answer is because there is no competition. What you have in the UK, in both fixed and mobile, is two very competitive markets. Fundamentally, we did this in TalkTalk because it was something that we were willing to take a risk on that our much bigger, maybe slightly more bureaucratic-you never know-competitors were focused on other things. As you as a Committee are looking at this industry as a whole, recognising the power of competition to make sure that you have technological innovation is important in this sector.

Q105 Mr Leech: You said it cost you £25 million and, from what you said, I guess that it would have cost more if you did not have such a simple system.

Dido Harding: Yes.

Mr Leech: So, is it cost that has put off the other providers before now?

Nicholas Lansman: I do not think it is. I do not know what the costs have been for the other systems put in place by the other main consumer ISPs, but it is a very competitive market. All ISPs will have different priorities in terms of where they are in the marketplace. Obviously providing good, fast broadband is an absolute priority to all the companies and providing it at a price that people can afford. There are still 7 million people that are not yet connected to the internet in the UK; not all of those have children. There is a range of issues that companies focus on to deliver fast broadband at a price that is affordable for the UK market.

Q106 Mr Leech: One of the issues of debate at the moment is whether the active choice should be about whether you opt in to adult content or opt in to filters. From TalkTalk’s perspective, do you have a difference in take-up of filters from people who buy broadband face to face or buy broadband over the telephone, as opposed to over the internet where it is all far more anonymous and people perhaps are less embarrassed to take a particular view on whether they should have filters?

Dido Harding: 99% of our customers are buying over the telephone or online, rather than physically face to face. We do not see any difference in the take-up of HomeSafe based on whether it is an online sale or a telephone sale. As a general rule, in all things we sell, we see much higher customer satisfaction when they buy it online, when they are in control of their own settings and it is easier for customers to configure online than it is to have an agent. As we have just been grappling with in the last hour, the technology is quite complicated. Describing it to somebody who is not hugely digitally savvy over the telephone is not easy. I always worry that people buying the product over the phone might not understand what filters they have turned on as clearly as someone buying it online.

Q107 Mr Leech: Do you find, once people have opted in for filters or not opted in for filters, they often change their mind and change it at a later stage?

Dido Harding: Yes. They turn them on and they turn them off again. I remember keenly when my husband was at DCMS himself discovering that the Racing Post was default blocked in our house because I had blocked all of their HomeSafe categories and, as racing was one of his areas, he was a bit cross. Immediately you will want to change that.

Mr Leech: It is one of your areas as well, though, isn’t it?

Dido Harding: Yes. You see, that is what our customers tell us. They do want to be able to change the filters because their children change, their lives change and, to keep the tools simple enough-it is still quite blunt. As I say, you blocked alcohol because you do not want your 12-year-olds going on to alcohol abuse sites but then discover that wine retailers are blocked, so you want to change that.

Q108 Mr Leech: You have recognised that the filters are getting better?

Dido Harding: Yes.

Mr Leech: Have you seen a decrease in the number of complaints or queries about a site being blocked or not being blocked, in the time that you have been offering the service?

Dido Harding: As the base has grown and our customers are getting better at understanding it, we are seeing an increasing desire for us to make the product better. Our customers would love us to have the ability for them to white-list a particular site within a category. For example, the national lottery would count as a gaming site. There are an awful lot of families who are buying a lottery ticket each week. They want to check the winning numbers, but they want gaming sites and gambling sites to be blocked. At the moment, our HomeSafe tool does not enable you to do that. We have seen an increase and I think it is a good thing that our customers are engaging in the product, because the thing you do not want is that they set the filters and think that the internet is safe now for their family and they do not need to worry about it.

Q109 Mr Leech: How far are you away from being able to white-list individual sites?

Dido Harding: Not very far.

Mr Leech: How far is not very far? Six months, six years, 60 years?

Dido Harding: With some of my competitors in the room, I would rather not give you a specific timing, but we are a pretty entrepreneurial business that tries to do things quite fast.

Mr Leech: I am guessing it is quite technologically difficult, then?

Dido Harding: No. I am not an engineer, so I bat away all the hard work, which is very unkind of me, but a lot of this is more around the amount of changes you can make at any one time to a stack of code. It is not that it is technically difficult to block a specific site and give a customer permission. It is just hard to get all the work done that everyone would like to do in it.

Q110 Mr Leech: Turning to social media, how easy is it to trace people who set up fake identities on social media sites?

Nicholas Lansman: I know you are taking evidence from some of the social media companies later, so I do not want to go too much into this area. I mentioned before that I think there is a difference between anonymity online and that does not mean you cannot trace people. In the previous session with Stella Creasy we had good examples of where people try to hide their identity online, yet they have been in the process of prosecution. People can attempt to hide themselves online, but there are technical ways in which they can be discovered. We talked about IP addresses and so forth.

Mr Leech: Is it straightforward, though, technologically?

Nicholas Lansman: I do not think it is straightforward. I am not technologically competent enough to give you a direct answer to that, but we can go away and perhaps provide some further evidence to the Committee on this point. A lot of this is possible, but some of the issues that were considered by Stella Creasy about people creating multiple fake identities is an issue the social media companies are looking at, at the moment.

Q111 Mr Leech: Do any of you have a view on whether social media companies could do more to combat illegal behaviour?

Dido Harding: I would take the view that all of us participating in this space can do more. I would not pretend to know enough about what social companies could do specifically, but I think you should be pushing us all.

Mr Leech: What, in your view, is the reason why they are not doing more at the moment? Is it because of this view about freedom of the internet or is it about money?

Dido Harding: I thought that, in the earlier session, Stella Creasy was right. She was talking specifically about Twitter. These social media companies are just very young and they have grown exponentially fast and they are catching up with some of these issues. I do not think you should just label it, "Is it money or is it technical ability?" A chunk of it is immaturity of an industry, that we are all learning how to do this. That is why you should be holding us all to account to think it through.

Q112 Mr Leech: When you say, "Immaturity of an industry" though, is it something to do with the uniqueness of social media companies that seem to be able to grow exponentially with a very small number of staff and just literally do not have the capacity to do the work that needs to be done without a vast-

Dido Harding: If you take my road safety analogy, it is the sheer speed at which these organisations have gone from being a garage business with a group of people in their early 20s to being a Fortune 100 company. The speed of that growth does put pressure on any organisation to catch up, in a world where the moral and social framework does not exist yet.

Nicholas Lansman: Added to that also is that many of these social network companies are global and the Committee is also looking at this concept of how companies can know how to comply-well, they need to-with the law and to interpret it. It is not so much that the companies are not willing. It is a complex situation where, even where laws apply online as well as offline, it is how to get to grips with them and how they can work with law enforcement as well. As Stella Creasy said previously, it is an evolving area and I think technology companies, whether social network or otherwise, are part of this learning process.

Hamish Macleod: The volume is high. A number of years ago, I appeared in front of this Committee and I remember quoting a statistic that something like 10 hours of YouTube video goes up every minute. I heard that statistic the other day and I believe it is now 10 times that going up every minute. It is an enormous volume that is being dealt with.

Dido Harding: In all the work that I do with the social media companies, I see no lack of willingness to tackle these issues. It is a scale and scope challenge for all of us.

Chair: I think that is all we have. Thank you very much.

Examination of Witness

Witness: Mr Jim Gamble, Independent Chair, City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board, gave evidence.

Q113 Chair: For our third sessions, I welcome back before the Committee Jim Gamble, who is now Independent Chairman of the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board, but whom we also remember as the first chief executive of CEOP. You will have heard some of the evidence that we have taken, both this morning and in our previous session. Can you give us your view of the current degree of the problem both of the extreme child sex abuse-type images and also on the problem of children having access to inappropriate material that is more appropriate for adults?

Jim Gamble: I will deal with the inappropriate material first because it is the easy one. I think inappropriate material is a parental decision for those individuals who have duty of care of the young people to make and I think active choice is absolutely right. If parents and others are prompted to make a decision, I do not think you can do more than that. You are not going to go out into their homes and look after their children for them. We are not going ensure that they do not drink more alcohol than they should or whatever else. I think active choice means that you are prompting a decision that a parent must take.

Apart from that, the reason that it is inappropriate and not illegal is because it is not against the law and thereby it is quite appropriate for the parent or carer or person with the duty of care to make that decision. There is far too great a focus and emphasis on that side of the debate at the minute and it is clouding other issues. If you look at Miley Cyrus or if you look at some of the other pop stars and their behaviour, that has a far greater and much more easily accessibly influence on young people today than seeking out adult or hard-core pornography for that matter. There is no debate or discussion of any value on that because you have young pop stars who young people want to emulate behaving in a highly sexualised way, whereby there is no filter. That is that issue.

On the second one, I think we have stood still for a number of years because of inertia in Government. Let me say before I start that I am going to speak on the basis of the Laming principles, following his review after Baby P, and that is that we must have lots of professional curiosity and appropriate and respectful challenge. Anything I say is not to offend anyone. It is simply to bear in mind those principles.

You have too many images still on the internet. We have too few people deterred from going on and looking at those images. We have diverted the debate from how we stop people from accessing, abusing and capturing images of our children to how we manage an internet industry that has not stood still; who have blocked images for as long as I have been involved in this, from 2002, 2001; who have put in place processes, perfect or imperfect, to deal with those. What we need to do now is address the issue that we are not being creative or imaginative enough in how we turn the tables. Let me give you an example of that.

Peter Davies, in one of his statements to the media, talked about 50,000 to 60,000 people downloading indecent abuse images at any given time. What we know about the propensity of those individuals to go on and commit hands-on offences is sufficient that, if you are a parent, you should be extremely concerned. Ultimately, though, we are not having the debate about how we resource child protection teams and how we identify, locate and rescue the children trapped in these images. I have read the previous evidence. I do not accept, and I have rung around, that very few of the images are new. Too many of the images are new. The images that you talk about that IWF will access are not hidden on peer-to-peer. That is where paedophiles nest to share their images. How do we identify, locate and rescue those children and how do we identify, locate and hold to account those predators that represent a threat?

You talked about education earlier. Unless you have a deterrent-in other words, we arrest 2,500 people and prosecute them for this-you have no deterrent to point to that is credible in the classroom. Young people understand that. There is a case in America at the minute where two girls have been arrested for bullying. It will be an interesting case to look at later. But let us accept that we have a problem with finance. What I would propose is the Government would be better investing £1.4 million in recruiting 12 detective sergeants, 12 trainers and co-ordinators and using the enthusiasm that is on the ground, because we have seen organisations like Let’s Go Hunting. Is that a good thing for them to do? No. Does it represent the manifestation of the frustration that we talk about one issue while our children continue to be abused? Yes, it does.

Let us for one second be a little bit imaginative and take the special constables’ role. Why can we not have special constables online? The figures I have given you are ready-reckoner figures, so they take account of not just the salary but also the on-costs of the equipment. If you had that for each region, every police force could recruit up to 10 special constables, just in theory, in their area that would be trained, vetted and supported to come in and give of their time. As a retired police officer, I might say, "Well I’ll actually go into Belfast to the PSNI, and I will give X amount of nights a week", the same way as specials do anywhere. If I had worked in IT or currently do that, I might want to give up time.

If you did that, you would have 520 people online at any given time who could manifestly cover 10, 20, 30 or 40 chat-room environments, where you would have people out there protecting our children. Not rogue vigilantes, but properly vetted, properly trained and accredited and properly supervised officers online. To me, that is what we should be thinking about so we attack the root cause, which is people. Not get involved in what I see in the one instance as trying to cover up the fact that-and I have read your evidence, that everything is fine in CEOP. Well, I would suggest you scratch the surface on that if you think that CEOP has not been diminished by going into the National Crime Agency.

To move the argument to, "How can you deal with this problem?" We have all become seduced by the technology. So we talk about filters and we talk about blocking. We have been doing that for a long time. I sat and listened to friends from the internet industry. They have been doing a good job for a long time. I have not always been their greatest fan because they should be pushed and they should be challenged, but I have not heard any talk about the Click CEOP button that children can go to in Facebook if their parents have downloaded it, and report, and we fought long and hard to get that put in there.

In 2004, when I was deputy director general of the National Crime Squad, we created a site that was bogus. When you came to it looking for child abuse images, it popped up and said, "This is a law enforcement site. Your IP address is-. You have committed a criminal offence." Those issues were okay in their day, but it seems to me we have stood still. Matt Bishop, vice president from Microsoft who sat on my board in CEOP, said, "The thing you must remember", and I would challenge you to remember as you go through this, "is that in the world of technology, standing still is falling rapidly behind".

I believe we have fallen behind. I believe the early success of CEOP-not because of me but because of people like Helen Penn and the education team, who is now working for some other unit in SOCO, not dealing with children, a fabulous child protection expert, developed all the early CEOP training and education materials, had worked for Childnet charity, but is now working in some other part of an organised crime entity. It does not make sense. We need to reflect that this is about people. The internet industry can be attacked for so long, but we have to get to the point where we say, "How can law enforcement do more?"

Chair: Thank you. We are going to come on to the CEOP incorporation issue but before we do, I will bring in Steve Rotheram.

Q114 Steve Rotheram: Before we do that, I followed the line of questioning last week about the victims in this. It is surprising that Jim has come up with a very different explanation of that from Peter last week, which is very concerning because one of the priorities for me was what we do about trying to prevent other people from becoming victims and what we do to help those people who are the victims. How far do we pursue that? Perhaps my line of questioning did not go far enough, but you are saying that we do not do enough in that respect?

Jim Gamble: We do not do anywhere near enough. CEOP now have-I will estimate-two people working on victim identification. Police forces are dealing with 101 other issues out there. How many of them do you think have dedicated resources right now looking at these issues? I have read the statistics, the 26 million. That is five forces. You are looking at millions upon millions.

In one investigation we did, Operation Cathedral, there were 750,000 images, but they related to 1,232 or 1,233 individual children. On peer-to-peer, these are being created. On the 50,000 Peter talks about, those are peer-to-peer sites. Those are hard-core paedophiles who do not stumble across anything on Google. They nest in these places on the internet where they can share secretly. You have to infiltrate that. You have to infiltrate it. You have to identify who they are and follow them offline and arrest them.

During Operation Ore there was massive controversy, but you know what? In the UK, we identified, located and arrested more than anyone did anywhere else in the world. I am now more convinced than ever that what we did was right because, for a short period, people were afraid to go online and download these images because they could be arrested and exposed to the full glare of daylight, and they do not like that. You do not have an active deterrent. If you look at the last two years’ CEOP reports, the arrests are lower than they were for any year except our first year of operation. That cannot be right. That is not a deterrent.

Q115 Chair: Just on that point, we came to visit CEOP when you were running it and you ran a programme over 24 hours, peer-to-peer file sharing, and I think you came up with something like 20,000 sites making available hard-core images. Those are 20,000 IP addresses that you could identify and you could go and raid them or arrest them, if you chose to do so. Is it simply a lack of commitment or resources that is preventing that?

Jim Gamble: It is not lack of commitment anywhere. Peter Davies and everyone in CEOP are absolutely committed to doing the right work, as are people in all the police forces around the country. I think we become seduced by all this and, because of the volume, we say we can’t do anything. To use the CEO of TalkTalk’s example, if we did not enforce speed limits on the roads we would have hundreds of thousands of people committing those offences, but when they see a picture of a speed camera on the side of the road they slow down because they realise that the deterrent is real and they may in fact collect points and lose their licence. We need to get to a position where we stop dealing with some of the technological issues that have seduced us for so long and attack the issues, which are people.

To come back to your point about victims, we need to get into the images to identify those children who are new victims, those children based in a particular geography, so we can share that with law enforcement abroad or do more. Two people working all the hours that God sends are not going to make that difference. I am recognising the financial restrictions and everything these days hides behind austerity, but for about £1.4 million, giving the public, retired officers and others the opportunity to engage you could make a huge step-change and difference. That is about being child focused and not being organisationally or politically focused, in my opinion.

Q116 Steve Rotheram: Moving on to the other aspects of it, we know that possession and publication of child sex images is illegal. Are there any changes in legislation that you think could help the police do their job better?

Jim Gamble: You can always tweak legislation. I heard your earlier comments on that and I would not disagree that you might want to refresh the language. My issue is that we do not need new legislation. We need new thinking and we need people to apply the law as it currently exists.

When I listened to the Member of Parliament giving evidence earlier, Stella Creasy, I was struck by how well she encapsulated it all. The Prevention of Harassment Act is bullying. The Prevention of Harassment Act is trolling. But we do not have examples that we can take into the classrooms and say to kids, "Don’t bully a friend to death. Don’t join in this bullying because of these two 15 and 16-year-olds who have been prosecuted." When I say that at public events and venues people, especially from the third sector, will say to me, "That’s not right. You cannot criminalise children."

If a 15-year-old walked up to the bus stop and punched you in the face, we would not say, "Well, you’re only 15 or you’re only 16. That’s okay." There would be consequences. The internet is just like a public place. We need to ensure that the laws as they exist, when they can be applied, are applied. In my experience you can track back. The thing is the child who uses their phone or their laptop or if they are old enough to have one of those old stationary computers that three people would lift onto a desk in a bedroom, they are leaving an evidence trail that is ultimate very, very easy, to follow once you pull the first strand. Educating children in the classroom is key. Where you have two people at the minute-two people, I am told-in CEOP who are currently qualified to deliver the ambassador training, because focus is now criminal justice and NCA rather than education and social care, how do you get into the classroom? None of the resources that are going out at the minute include workshops on Snapchat, on Vimeo, on Vine, on

While you might have two or three lines on the internet, getting into the classroom where you engage in a virtual cycle: the teacher, the child, and critically, their parent. Parents will complain and bang the table for the three days after something terrible has happened and then they go back to their normal lives because they do not want to think of it happening to their children. The psychology of it is you think, "Well, that is terrible". That is why I think we have had all of this from those poor children that were murdered by Stuart Hazell and-I am trying to remember the other guy’s name, but after Tia Sharp and April Jones’ murders.

What we have is this reaction, this overwhelming urge, because we are all so emotionally engaged with our children, to demand that something is done; but rather than demand that the right thing is done and we deal with people, we begin to deal with technology. That is a huge problem about focus. We have to look at how we get to the root cause, identify, locate and hold to account as many of those people as you can, which will deter the vast majority from coming online. They do not want to be caught. They can walk into a police station if they want to be caught. The only time you ever hear a paedophile saying, "This was a cry for help", is after they have been caught.

We need to see more being arrested and you are not going to do that with splash screens. If you are a hard-core paedophile and you search for an image and a splash screen says, "You can get in trouble", I do not know-do you think these people grew up in a society where they did not realise the stigma involved? Do you think they kept the secret about the way they engaged and abused children all those years because they thought it would be somehow acceptable, that they need a prompt to remind them that it isn’t? That just does not make sense and it is a diversion of attention and resource that does not work. We tried it.

Q117 Steve Rotheram: Again, I am for splash screens, but not for the reason that you are say; not for the hard-core paedophiles out there. They are far more sophisticated than that anyway. That would not make a blind bit of difference, but as a warning to others perhaps and to try to change the culture online, because I think that is very different to what happens offline.

We all know these sorts of images are illegal throughout the world. For me, I wonder why there is such a prevalence of them if everyone knows they are illegal. Is there a lack of resource from the police to try to tackle it or, as I asked Peter last week, is there a problem with international co-operation so that we need to clamp down on those people who are the main purveyors of these sorts of images?

Jim Gamble: In 2003-2004 we created the Virtual Global Taskforce, which is an alliance across international territory: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Australian Federal Police, Department of Homeland Security, Interpol and others. I was its first chair. In one operation, over 357 hours, I think it was 132 children that we rescued. You need to be online. You need to be patrolling 24/7. I come back to imaginative cost-effective solutions. If a police officer in the UK is working an 8-hour shift, they hand the baton to an officer in Canada, who hands the baton to an officer in Australia, you have 24-hour coverage for an 8-hour shift. We need to go back to those basics, because it seems to me we have stood still. The deterrent that existed during Operation Ore, the deterrent that existed during Operation Chandler-to put the splash screens in context, I would not be against them if the splash screen was saying, "122 people have been arrested this year. Do you want to be 123?" While I was in CEOP, we took an ad out at Christmas in The Times saying, "Go online and search for indecent images of children and we will present you with a criminal record". I am not against that per se, but it becomes laughable if you do not have the publically visible deterrents of people being held to account in court.

Q118 Steve Rotheram: Is the real problem that if there were 50,000 people who were accessing these images, which are all illegal, and those people could be charged and, if they go through the judicial process, could be fined or imprisoned-hopefully imprisoned-that we just do not have the infrastructure anyway?

Jim Gamble: Here is the question. Can they all be identified, located and held to account? How do you know that Bridger was not online looking for those? The issue for me is always this. In my role in safeguarding now, in the work that I do as a consultant and elsewhere, you see people popping up all the time as teachers or in other roles who were downloading these images six or seven years ago. The courts have to take it more seriously. You have a situation now where you will still see teachers, for example, getting prosecuted for this and not going to prison.

At one stage, before my clash with the Home Secretary, in an interview I did say that I recognise that there was a role for cautions and managing some people, but that is about the risk assessment of them. There was a hue and cry that I should have resigned then and many years earlier. I recognise that there is a role to be played around that management, but the more I have watched the situation develop the more I believe we need to see substantial numbers of people held to account. Courts need to apply meaningful sentences. Courts need to avoid making statements that diminish or trivialise the issue because it is an image.

They need to be asking questions about whether these images have been interrogated, whether we have exhausted every opportunity in the images you have to identify and locate the child, because I will bet if you go out to the police forces who have millions of images they have not all been viewed. If that was one of your children, would you be more interested in that being viewed so that they could be rescued from the abuse that they are probably not telling you about or would you rather that we had a splash screen? For me it has to be children first. That is why this debate is so important, because we have become seduced by statistics and technology and they become images.

I have heard people like Claire Perry talk about the fact that these are all crime scenes. Well, yes, great. We coined that phrase in 2004-2005, but the fact of the matter is we are still having the same conversation. It is getting into that. Let us find the kids. If you find the kids, you will find the people who did it. If you hold those people to account, they will not be doing it any more. We have seen in the Savile case that there is never just one victim. There are always multiple victims with these people. If you are able to do that, you are going to create a more active deterrence because the only way to manage paedophiles is through fear, in my experience: fear of capture, fear of exposure.

Q119 Mr Sutcliffe: At the risk of trying to reopen old wounds, Jim, I asked Peter Davies last week if it was a good thing that CEOP had been incorporated into the National crime Agency. He said he thought it was absolutely a good thing. His argument was that CEOP had evolved and that the National Crime Agency brought in wider resources. Clearly, I do not think you see that as the case. Given the solution in terms of how you see a potential solution in terms of where we are, what are your concerns and worries and do you still have those worries now about what has happened to CEOP?

Jim Gamble: I came in from Victoria this morning. I took a taxi across to the hotel where I am staying and we drove past CEOP. As we drove past, there is a big wall where the CEOP sign used to be and we used to have all the photographs of kids who came in from schools. There is now a big sign on the wall that says "National Crime Agency". The Home Secretary, of course, said that the Government would invest in CEOP and build on its success and that it would not dilute or diminish its operational independence or brand. I have done a lot of work in the last couple of years as a consultant around brand, around social media and everything else. Putting up a National Crime Agency sign is not about not diluting the brand. That is about the bigger brand suppressing the smaller brand because it needs now to establish itself, which is a good example of why it is not right. Child protection in every other sphere has to fight its corner.

The idea in CEOP under The Way Forward paper presented by the previous Government was to build on its early success as a consolidated centre, not around criminal justice, but around child protection. I do not disagree that CEOP could have been consolidated somewhere else, but it would have been much better consolidated as an agency of the Department for Education than in the National Crime Agency. If you want to consolidate like-for-like resources, then put counterterrorism in there because, as a former Head of Counterterrorism in Belfast and Deputy Director General of the National Crime Squad, I do know a little bit about organised crime and terrorism. There are many things that are familiar.

To take a child protection agency and put it into a national crime agency where the brand has now been diluted, where they will continue to have protection under Freedom of Information, which is fundamentally wrong, how can you have a child protection entity that is not subject to Freedom of Information? You have a child protection entity that is answerable through the NCA to one political person, the Home Secretary. Where is the credible reassurance around that? Where are the lessons of serious case review around professional independence and challenge? The fact of the matter is we had planned the three pillars to be education, social care, and criminal justice. We now have moved to one pillar, which is criminal justice.

I read the evidence of last week with real interest to see where the statistics are-let us drill into them and see where it is-and I could not see any because it was, "We are not sure about this number, we are not sure about that number, but this is improving and that is much better". Where is the evidence? Two people qualified to deliver ambassador training in the UK. I do not know how many hundred thousand teachers there are in the UK, but it is a lot.

I do know, from feedback I get at the conferences where I speak and the other work that I do, that there is a frustration that they are no longer able to get the resources. Two fantastic people trying to do a difficult role, but with no resource and no support. Why are there no workshops coming out of what they do? Why are there no Snapchat lessons for the classroom? Why is there not a programme of work that joins up with schools, children and parents together so that you capture the digital footprint of the family and you understand how you then engage, so that the child learns to block, report, do privacy settings with the parent?

Those were all the plans, the 24/7 command and control centre that should have been in CEOP manned by child protection professionals where you could phone in if you had a child trafficking, child exploitation or child abduction issue. Where is that? Gone, subsumed into something else. CEOP’s brand was important because it delivered reassurance and it had a high profile brand. Do you think that brand is still as high profile today? The places that I am going to and the people I am speaking to are saying that it is not. I was at the Police and Crime Commissioners Conference in West Midlands, several hundred people dealing with child protection, not three weeks ago. Bob Jones was there. I asked, "Do you think it would be easier for a child to approach the NCA or CEOP as old?" Of course, maybe they just want to make me happy and I accept that, but I do not think everybody is that keen on making me happy; not a single person in the audience, and there were some from the Serious Organised Crime Agency as it was then.

I will give you one other example. CEOP’s academy, partnership with Lancashire University, looking at the psychology of offending, because we need to understand why these people do what they do, so we can interdict it earlier. Where is it? It has gone. It is not happening. For the last three years it has been suspended. Why? Why do we not have that learning being distilled from those interviews and shared with all of the police forces that are engaging and interviewing these people on the ground? It is about having a child protection focus and not having an organisational one that is about facing drugs, facing all other forms of organised crime.

One of the reasons I resigned was because 32 organisations made submissions about CEOP going into the National Crime Agency. None of them, as far as I am aware, supported it from the Association of Directors for Children’s Services through the NSPCC and everybody else. Today, with the gift of hindsight, they may say, "Well, it is not too bad". Do you know why? The Government of the day is the Government of the day and nobody likes to fight with them, but why have those reports never been released? We tried to get them several years ago and under Freedom of Information they could not be released. It is not plutonium poisoning. This is about child protection and what experts’ opinions were at the time.

I think we suffered because of a bloody-minded approach of the present Home Secretary at a time when Government was new. They did not, as everyone in child protection knows, do that critical thing, which is pause, reflect and plan before you change anything around child protection. I think what we have seen is an increase in the number of images available, an increase in confidence of offenders and a decrease in deterrence.

Q120 Mr Sutcliffe: I am grateful for that and, not surprisingly, would support all that you have said. The issue for me when I was Probation Minister was the multi-agency approach of dealing with offenders who came out and had to be monitored under licence or whatever. We seem to have lost that link in terms of online safety with those perpetrators, who usually have multiple convictions, who come back out into society and have to be monitored by the different agencies. Has that work diminished or is it still there in terms of the relationships with the other parts of the criminal justice system?

Jim Gamble: I do not know. All I can say is the plan was, in the 24/7 command centre that was envisaged under The Way Forward, that there would be, for those critical high-risk offenders, a means for lifetime monitoring them. We were looking at a number of providers around that, so that you would have a centre. Whether a family was in Portugal when a child went missing or somewhere else, they could get expert advice. Secondly, somewhere where there was a child protection ethos; that if something was happening in a particular Facebook environment or elsewhere, someone could go and take an immediate look at it.

I am working with the Isle of Man police at the minute and looking at how they can integrate their digital strategy both on and offline that allows them, in a recognised form, to patrol for their citizens online. Rather than say, "Do not report crime to us", say, "You can engage this Twitter patrol and you can ask it questions and it will give you professional answers and help you, because it can be in your pocket"; looking at how you do that. That opportunity has been missed.

I think Keith Bristow is an outstanding police leader; I think Peter Davies has had a very difficult job to do. A lot of people left CEOP. I hear all the time that the numbers are much bigger now and that is great if they have been able to do that on a budget that is largely the same, of £6.4 million in their annual review. If they have done that by reallocating, fantastic, but when I was there and I gave evidence to Home Affairs Select Committee the week I resigned, we took a headcount of who we had. It is about 120 now. I know they say then it was 86. I am a bit concerned about the difference.

I read with interest the phrases used, because I think everything here is "more resources and number of people available for CEOP’s work". What does that mean: number of resources and people available? How many people do you think are in CEOP right now? How many people do you think are working right now for child protection in the country? If I were you that is the question I would want to know. I also understand that you have heard about the psychological support that staff get. Let us look at psychological. How many staff are in CEOP today, working for CEOP, that have had psychological support? That will give you an idea of the true number who are working directly for CEOP; those people who have had that psychological support who are working in child protection today.

You have to get beneath the rhetoric of "there are more". Apparently, there is 145. Apparently, it is 175. If "access to resources" means that they can use Serious Organised or National Crime Agency resources, are they the right resources? In my experience in education, I came in as a hard-core police officer. I did not come in thinking, "Well, we will go down this education road", but over the six-year period what I saw was, "Educate and empower young people. They can protect each other. Educate and empower those who are in a role to protect them. Support social care. Support teachers. You will have a far greater opportunity of target-hardening those people who are vulnerable while you do it". I get no sense that that has been captured.

When we talked about statistics of children rescued, we defined a child protected as someone who-if you are a paedophile and you are engaging two children, we would count those two children because we would know the name of the social worker, the name of the paedophile and the law enforcement officer engaged. In the broader safeguarding, we would not, if you were a martial arts instructor that held a whole load of classes, count 130 children because we had arrested you. We would count those children that you may potentially have engaged with. You have to look at statistics and say, "Are we improving? Are we getting better? Where have all these things gone?"

You can bring someone in from the National Crime Agency who is a grade six analyst and put them on a desk to look at child abuse images. Is that what you want or do you want someone with a child protection background who specialises in that and who has built a history in doing it to be looking at that; who will consider not just the issues about viewing the images and the trauma and that, but some of the other evidential issues and some of the safeguarding issues?

I said at the time I would love to be coming back to say I had been proved wrong. I am not being malicious or malign when I say that I think I have been absolutely proved right. The brand has been diminished and diluted. The operational independence, do you get a sense that CEOP is operationally independent of the National Crime Agency? It is not even independent of politics and the Home Secretary. That is not a good place for child protection to be. If you were a safeguarding board, I think you would be heading for trouble.

Q121 Tracey Crouch: I apologise for having to whizz off straight after the question. My mother was a social worker in Children & Families for many years. I have to say I thought I was pretty immune from stories about child abuse, but some of the statistics that we have been hearing I have found quite distressing. You talk about the role of linking up the agencies for child protection. Do you think that our current flock of social workers are being adequately trained to deal with this kind of abuse on the internet and how can we improve, not just awareness among our enforcement agencies, but within our protection agencies as well?

Jim Gamble: That is a great question. I am chair in Hackney. What you have there is a blended staff. We talk about the frustration and the problems. You have young staff who grew up with Bebo, then MySpace, then Facebook, who use Instagram every day. Those young social workers bring a skillset with them that the older ones do not have, but what the older ones have is experience of dealing with families living in complex situations, facing issues around alcohol misuse, mental health and all the other safeguarding issues that are there.

Do I think that the training is good enough? No, I think it could be improved. Do I think we are in a dire situation? No, I do not. My eldest daughter is a special needs teacher. She is 28. She grew up with Bebo. So in the classroom she understands all those issues. My son who lives and works in London, when his younger sister was coming of age he was the one who did not want her to go onto social networking sites. Maybe that was because he did not want her to see what he was doing, but at the end of the day it was also about protection. The youngest is training to be a social worker as we speak and so from that point of view I agree.

What I would say is we need to get this right again. The NSPCC ran a survey-I think it probably links to your question-where they said just about 50% of social workers were not confident that they would be able to identify a child whose abuse had stemmed from the internet. The problem with that question was it was put the wrong way around. The question was about technology first and harm second. If you ask if a social worker could identify a child who had been the subject of neglect, abuse or mistreatment, then the statistics would have been a lot higher.

Now, there are 85,000-odd social workers on the general social work care consult register. There are about 45,000 in local authority care and about 24,000 or 25,000 delivering children’s services. That survey looked at 327 or 329. Some were from the NSPCC themselves. Is it representative? I am not sure. Social workers are like the rest of us. I would think you would be au fait, if I am being stereotypical, with social media whereas some of the rest of us would not. Training needs to be updated and improved. It needs to be in the workplace as well. We should be delivering that training online. It has to be contemporary, because if you develop a training package now and you do not take account of the new social media sites, the new trends, the new dos and don’ts, then you lose sight of it.

It is like RIPA. I was chair of the UK Data Communications Group. The problem with the legislation is, when you make it too specific, you cannot apply it generally enough. Training needs to be about how you communicate, how you create risks.

Q122 Tracey Crouch: It goes back to your original premise right at the start about professional curiosity. Do you have any statistics or evidence or even just any suspicions as to what proportion of children who are victims of child abuse images that are posted on the internet are also on the at-risk register in terms of general protection?

Jim Gamble: No. If we go back to one of the Ofsted reports-not the last one but before-I think there was only about 12% of children who were on the Children At Risk Register who were known to authorities in any way. Those children who were dealt with, the other percentage, the adults in the house were known to create a risk.

One of the other problems is ContactPoint. How do you identify and locate a child who is subject to a risk that is being investigated by social care, by policing, by health or problems with education? ContactPoint was the mechanism by which we did that. It was scrapped on 26 August by the present Government and never replaced. That was technology that you could turn all this on its head. The former Head of Intelligence in CEOP had said to me at the time, "Look, this has made it easier and quicker for us to identify some of the children because we get partial information. You can then look for the specifics." It was seen as a Big Brother database, which it was not.

Should there be better training? Yes, but I think the training needs to always concentrate on the abuse. The mechanism and means, whether it is child sexual exploitation on the street, whether it is a child being trafficked, or whether it is a child being groomed will have two things in common: people first and technology second.

Q123 Mr Leech: I do not think any of us can be in any doubt on your views as to the change from CEOP coming under the National Crime Agency but, given that it is, are there any changes that you would like to see that you think would improve the situation that have not been introduced so far?

Jim Gamble: Yes. I accept the situation as it is. If it was within my gift, I think there should be far greater engagement with the Department for Education. The education teams should be bolstered. CEOP should have absolute operational independence from the National Crime Agency, because children’s voices must be heard and must come first. I am not sure how you can do that, given the present format. They will have an advisory board, but an advisory board is like an ashtray on a motorbike. It does not make a lot of difference once you start moving if people are not using it. I think they need to re-engage education much more. They need to invest in education.

They could still do what I have suggested around creating special constables who would work regionally with their local police forces for £1.4 million. Recruit, train, and accredit through CEOP, attached to the National Crime Agency. None of that would be stopped, but I think they also need to take a step back and learn the lessons about brand. Taking down signs, changing the CEOP website to put under it "A command of the National Crime Agency", that is not the spirit of children first. That is evidence of the organisational ego of the larger diminishing the presence of the smaller simply because the larger is now new and wants to create a profile.

I would put the CEOP media team back in CEOP, not integrate it into the NCA. If you are going to be "children first", then you need to be advocating and saying to the NCA, "No, you are wrong. We are going to take on these cases. We are going to do it in this way and we are going to invest this amount of our budget in education". I do not believe that that can happen.

Q124 Mr Leech: Does the NCA offer anything to CEOP?

Jim Gamble: Yes, it offers a capability around technology when it comes to in-depth investigations into the likes of the onion router, but the NCA should have been a good and active partner of CEOP. I believe the NCA as an entity is an excellent idea. As far back as 2001, when I joined the National Crime Squad as an assistant chief constable, the director general said to me after three months, "What would you change if you could?" I said, "I would drop the ‘s’ and put an ‘a’ on it and make it the National Crime Agency and consolidate resources around organised crime within it". Now, the fact of the matter is it is a good idea, but putting things like CEOP in it will force CEOP, as it has done, to submit to its image, not allow CEOP to thrive as an independent environment.

How many people are looking for missing children now? That is a CEOP responsibility. How many people do you think in CEOP are working on missing children? The Prime Minister was asked on Channel 5, on the news programme, how many people he thought were searching for images. I know when they put to him "between two and five" he was shocked. The fact of the matter is, if you want to see the real difference you need to get into CEOP and you need to ask some questions because, as far as I am aware, everything that I have said to you is absolutely true. If you accept everything I have said to you as true and you are not deeply concerned, then there is a huge issue.

National Crime Agency is great. Organised crime, terrorism, money laundering, fantastic. Child protection in Hackney, child protection in Northumbria, child protection in Humberside, that is about local child protection teams, local safeguarding boards, local police. It is about how you support them, about how you create materials that go into their schools. A national hub that had teachers in it, that had social workers in it, that had those people that create those imaginative products that children can engage with in the classroom so that they learn the importance of friendship and supporting a friend who is being bullied online, who are able to work through real life cases to say, "If that had been one of my friends, I would have wanted them to report. Who would you report to?"

You can be scared of your own shadow in this game, because nobody wants to attack any of the big social media providers. I will not name the charity, but I heard someone from a charity who is on the advisory body to one of the social media organisations that has just changed its default settings for 13 to 18-year-olds say, "We will need to learn more about it". I think, "Well, if you are learning more about it after the fact, you are not an advisory body, if your advice was not being taken before the fact". What can I say? The National Crime Entity is a great entity but subsuming CEOP into it is a recipe for disaster. You can bring however many people you want in, but while they are still working there do you honestly think they are going to come in and say, "No, I do not think it is a good thing"? Do you think that will be career-enhancing or career-inhibiting?

Chair: It is 1pm. We had better draw this to a halt. Jim, thank you very much.

Jim Gamble: Thank you.

Prepared 18th March 2014